Somehow, I didn’t see it coming. Hindsight being what it is, the entire escapade seems so obvious now. But as the final chops of the helicopter’s rotor faded off into the distance, and our mountaineering guide disappeared down an invisible path from the peak of Mount Arrowsmith, I had no idea.
"Soooo…" I pondered aloud while surveying my unexpected new surroundings. "So… uh… what exactly are we doing up here?"
The bright sun reflected off the crunchy snowdrifts and wind-blown ice that had frozen between the dark rocks covering the top of the mountain. The usual dreariness of the temperate coastal rain forrest in December had taken a break and rewarded our adventuring spirits with a remarkably clear and cold day, making the frigid 360 degree view even more stunning. From the highest peak on the island, we could see deep blue mountains, misty old growth forests and the icy pacific stretching off in every direction.
Alex just smiled and busied himself with the contents of his backpack.
"I just thought, you know, we could hang out here for a bit."
Skeptically, I watched him arrange the now infamous “sport blanket” on the icy peak.
We had settled on the water resistant camping blanket the previous day, during a last minute supply stop for our mystery journey. Initially he had set his sights on a proper wool blanket - purpose unknown by me at the time - but after pushing our way through throngs of aggressive Christmas shoppers and multiple department stores, we realized that real wool blankets were a more rare commodity in this small coastal city than we had originally anticipated.
He weighed the blanket down on either edge with his pack on one side and his body on the other, due to the gusting wind that hinted it might like to toss the lot of us into the frozen abyss just 15 feet away from our site. The ski pants I was wearing made more sense now, and I was grateful for the extra down parka our guide had given me outside the hangar, nearly 2000 meters below, even though the combination made me look like I was about 7 years old, all bundled up for a chilly day of tobogganing back in the prairies.
Earlier that morning we’d left our floating, spherical treehouse on the premise of a visit to a petting zoo followed by a mountain facing expedition coupled with potentially frigid temperatures. He, of course, was driving the entire ordeal, so I wasn’t really concerned about the fact that this string of events seemed more or less insane. I wasn’t even annoyed at his deliberate vagueness anymore, since I’d already relented and packed what seemed like everything I owned, in order to be prepared for a 40 degree variation in temperature. I was mostly feeling amused and curious, confident that whatever scheme he had up his sleeve would be well planned, thanks to his recurring nonchalant competence that I find incredibly attractive.
He produced a large red thermos and extended it in my direction. “Would you like some?” I joined him on the sport blanket and accepted the steaming lid full of coffee and Baileys handed to me. The guide had told us the temperature was about -16 on top of the mountain, so the hot drink was warmly appreciated.
“I thought we could have a little picnic up here.” He grinned at me as I regarded him with a quizzical, disbelieving expression. There was no way he rented a helicopter and flew me to the top of a mountain to have a picnic, is there? That seemed crazy, even for him. Before we had gotten into the helicopter I had guessed that we were going whale watching or something like that, but there definitely wasn’t any whales on the top of this mountain. Only frozen rocks, sparkling ice, a helipad, and a handful of strange metal towers that looked like soviet era science apparati to me.
He pulled a candle out of his backpack and tried to light it with a lighter, but the gusting wind had other ideas. I set down the coffee mixture so I could lean in and cup my hands around it, in an attempt to shield the candle from the wind, but this didn’t help at all. He shrugged and laughed it off. ‘Yeah… I guess it’s kinda windy on the top of a mountain, I probably should have thought of that.” I feigned offense, insisting that any mountain top picnic I would take part in would require at least five burning candles. He took a swig of the coffee and handed it back to me with a smirk.
We sat on top our little sport blanket next to the helipad, taking in the majestic view and drinking delicious coffee for a few minutes. It was an icy cold, but beautiful scene. Maybe a picnic on top of the world wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.
He reached back into the backpack and his little black notebook materialized. I began to wonder what else he had in that bag of tricks - and was soon to find out.
“So… well…” He trailed off with a waver of nerves in his voice. I watched him curiously.
“So I wrote something a while ago, I was hoping I could read it to you.”
I smile and nod, thinking of how much I appreciate the lengths this man goes to explain what’s on his mind. He is succinct and thoughtful in a way you might not initially assume.
“It’s a poem, and probably not very good. You know how I am… english is hard. Please don’t judge my rhyming.”
I continue smiling, reminded of the countless lyrical debates we’ve had over the last year. English is his third language and he speaks completely fluently, but still has the slightest unplaceable accent, and occasionally will get tripped up on expressions. We often end up discussing the intended phrasing or usage of words because I’ll respond with, “You mean, this?” It’s not so much that I’m super critical about it, but he enjoys the input and we both like improving our communication skills. There was a period in the summer where we spent a lot of time debating if certain words qualified as rhymes or not. I wonder if he’ll have put any of what we learned then to use in his prose?
He flips to the correct page and begins to read an incredibly sweet series of couplets describing his insatiable love for me that I can’t share here because I don’t remember them in full details. Also, it’s kinda private, so just do you best imagining here. What I do remember is when he read the second last line of the poem, I finally figured out what was happening
"You are the one with whom I want to share my life - “
Holy shit life rhymes with wife! He’s gonna say wife! He is proposing right now on the top of this freaking mountain!
“Serra Jane Boten, will you be my wife?”
My mind was racing. I was totally, completely, unexpectedly surprised. Of course, we had talked about marriage, so the idea itself wasn’t shocking. We both knew what we wanted, even though we’d only been dating officially for nine months at the time. In my mind I’d already guessed a date when he would propose, but that date was still a few months away. I managed to squeak out a bewildered response of “whaaaaaaat….?” my voice going up an entire octave than normal.
I looked at him, smiling earnestly at me, each breath condensing in the air above his face. I started to giggle.
"YES! Of course I say yes!"
A small brown cardboard box materializes, which he apologizes is not fancier. He opens it to reveal a pair of rose gold rings, one with a larger purple amethyst and the other a sparkly little diamond. He takes my left hand and explains he picked these two because he thought together they looked like a moon orbiting around a planet and he knows I love the moon so he hopes they fit and that I like them. Oh, and also they’re all reclaimed and recycled, so no tears, blood or sadness in the diamond, custom made for us by a lady artist in San Francisco, which we later both agree is poetically appropriate. The rings slide on easily and are absolutely perfect. I still haven’t stopped giggling.
“Whaaaaaaaatttt????” I say again, still incredulous that this is even happening. He stops my giggles with a kiss and picks me up in a huge hug. We are both smiling like lunatics.
He reaches back into the bag (what else does he even have in there?) and pulls out a tiny bottle of champagne. Seems appropriate. Pops the tops and we cheers to each other, the view, life, everything, and take turns enjoying sips of the fizzy goodness under the cloudless sky and sparkling sun. Alex tells me about all the schemeing and alternate plans he went through in order to arrange everything. One of the original ideas even involved a hot air balloon - but eventually he settled on the mountain top because he knows I love being high up, and that I’ve always dreamed of being able to fly, so he wanted to create that sensation for me.
On top of everything else I’m feeling, I am thoroughly impressed that he was able to plan all of this without me having the slightest idea, since he isn’t usually the greatest liar. He explains that the hardest part was not only worrying that I might say no, but moreso that he was just so excited about everything, he wanted to tell me all about it. Keeping it a secret was nerve wracking. He heaves a huge sigh of relief, gives me more hugs and kisses, and jumps up.
“She said YES!!!!” He joyfully yells to into the wind.
Eventually our guide returns from his jaunt down the side of the mountain, takes one look at our derpy smiles and grins. “Everything ok here?”
We nod and his grin erupts into a huge smile. “Well, congratulations! This is fantastic!”
Soon we hear the helicopter’s motor ricocheting off the trees down below, so we quickly pack up our things and head to the designated pickup spot. The mountains, wind and cold air make it hard to tell how far out our ride is, so when it suddenly shoots straight up from beyond the edge of the summit, we are startled. Our guide reassures us that we’re in the right spot, so we return to laughing giddily and feeling like rockstars as we climb into the helicopter and zoom back down to sea level,veager to start the next phase of this awesome adventure we’re on, together.