A Story of Love, off grid.
The day John proposed.
It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m going to tell you a love story.
The fact that we’re off grid now makes our engagement story even funnier. Little did we know it was foreshadowing events to come.
Back when we were dating, I rented an Airbnb for a surprise weekend get-away. The rental was a cabin on a creek at the end of a dead-end road which led to a state park. It was remote - at least relative to where we lived back then.
The main bedroom featured a hanging bed across from several large windows that opened to the calming sound of the creek rushing below. It also featured a two-person sauna and, of course, a wood burning fireplace.
From the house, we could hike into the park which was heavily treed, full of waterfalls, and so quiet. Needless to say, we had an unforgettable weekend together.
Fast forward a couple years.
John told me he had a surprise and I should pack for a weekend away. He wasn’t giving away any details as I got into the car and we headed out.
We drove for hours as the scenery became more wild and remote. I didn’t say anything to him, but it was also becoming more familiar to me. I had an inkling of where we were headed when we passed this field of elk…
The rains pelted the windshield more heavily as we drove, which was not unusual in our area. But then we started passing a lot of downed trees. Limbs across the road. Large trees that had been cut recently and drug off the roadway.
Strong winds swayed the evergreens all around us. We ventured on.
Finally, John pulled off the pavement onto a dirt road, which was becoming muddier by the minute. The trees were more plentiful there, too, as were the stray tree limbs scattered about the ground.
A ways up the dirt road, we finally reached our destination - our lovely creek side cabin from many years ago. I was delighted! It was just as I remembered it.
As we entered, we were met by the cleaning lady who was as surprised to see us as we were to see her. “Did Tom not reach you? He tried to call you and cancel. There’s no power,” she told us.
Undeterred, John answered, “No problem.”
“But there’s no heat or water!” She looked concerned.
“There’s a creek and a fireplace. It’s fine.” John answered.
“But there’s no toilet…” she began looking at me with even more concern, probably wondering if I’d be okay with this guy who was so determined to get me alone, way out here, with nothing.
John explained that we’d put creek water in the tank to flush and that we really didn’t mind the inconvenience. I shook my head in agreement, assuring her that we would be okay - and that’d I’d be okay - with this very insistent man.
Gathering her dusting gear and bedsheets into the car, she explained that there had been a microburst storm overnight. Power companies were working on the outage, but there was no guarantee we’d get power back for days.
She drove away, hesitantly, glancing over her shoulder at the weirdos who would pay good money to vacation without even the basic amenities.
It was still pouring buckets when John turned his stubbornness toward me. “Let’s go for a hike,” he insisted.
“Ummm, maybe later. It’s raining pretty hard,” I answered, looking out the window at the creek that had become a river.
“Come on. We’ll have the place to ourselves.” He opened the door and grinned. His charm was irresistible.
I put my boots back on as John grabbed a mysterious gym bag out of the trunk. We set off, sloshing through the mud, assailed by torrents of rain. The waterfall we’d hiked to several years before was now a raging rapid and the surrounding rocks were dangerously slick. Not to mention it was January and more than a little cold.
“Will you look at that?!“ John gestured toward the waterfall over my shoulder. Turning to look, I half wondered if this man, seemingly so sweet, had indeed brought me out here - so far from everyone - to dispatch with me, as Esmerelda had feared. Had two years been his breaking point? Was I about to go for a cold swim?
I shook off my natural paranoia.
When I turned back around, John was kneeling on the wet rock, his smiling face pelted with rain, presenting to me a sparkling ring.
“I love you. Will you marry me?”
There was no complicated speech or flowery words - John is a man of few words - but the gesture was immense. No microburst, no power outages, no blustering winds were going to get in the way of his plan to make me his wife. That much was clear.
As you might have guessed, I said yes.
We got off the slippery rocks and walked back to the trail where he opened the mysterious black bag. He pulled out a bottle of prosecco, my favorite chocolate, strawberries and a blanket.
Totally drenched - and totally elated - we enjoyed our soggy picnic amidst the dripping ferns, the scent of evergreens, and the sounds of rushing water.
The power never did come back on. John brought water up in a bucket from the creek to “do our business” and made a fire in the fireplace. We spent the night by the glow of the cozy fire, listening to the creek, and enjoying our post-engagement high.
And, in the morning, we went out for a huge breakfast!
I share this story because it’s pretty darn romantic and it’s Valentine’s Day, after all. It’s also become a kind of trend with us - our honeymoon coincided with Hurricane Matthew and we had an entire resort to ourselves… but that’s a story for another day.
Mainly, I want to express appreciation for my husband who keeps a positive attitude, is (sometimes annoyingly) determined, and always has his bases covered. Having a partner like this is a treasure. It’s also a reminder of what I strive to be.
We often hear people say they want to “find someone” who is (insert a list of admirable qualities). But maybe we need to be that person first in order to find that person. Maybe by spending time developing our own positive qualities we attract someone with equally positive qualities to share. Not the same qualities, perhaps, but of equal value.
I think back to some of my previous relationships and, although there’s plenty of blame to go around, I mainly see the areas where I fell short. These are the only areas I have the power to change. I spent 13 years of my adult life single “working on myself”, and I’m still not done. I’m a work in progress.
And John is a work in progress. And so is everyone.
This Valentine’s Day, whether you’re in a relationship or not, try and share some love. Share love for the qualities you admire, share grace for the qualities that need work, and share compassion for everyone - each of us, a continual work in progress.