Thursday, June 20, 2013

Just engaged!

"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die, where you invest your love, you invest your life." Mumford and Sons
June 9th, 2013 ~6:45AM: On bended knee, soundtracked by the otherworldly falsetto of Jonsi of Sigur Ros on the summit of Stuart Peak with a Montana sapphire ring from Studio Pandora in hand, I asked Linds Sanders to be my life partner. 

The plan to propose to Linds on the summit of Stuart Peak was conceived of early on in our dating relationship. In October of 2012, after two months of dating, it was clear to me that Linds was "the one". Whether or not I was her "one" early on, I suppose, is now moot. I got her! I really mean this in a joking sense. We were - and still are - positively smitten with each other. On a routine hike up Mount Sentinel in October, I looked out and up the Rattlesnake valley towards Stuart Peak. A domed peak of about 8,000 feet, Stuart Peak is the most striking feature of the Rattlesnake Wilderness as seen from Missoula. What's more, Stuart Peak is Linds' favorite mountain and the destination of one of our first dates. An easy choice.

No less than a mountaintop proposal would do, as a symbol of what we had quickly become for each other: a vantage point from which to see the rest of the world. Immediately, my Dad's event planning instincts kicked in: as a rule, Christiansons do nothing half-assed. More than a mountaintop proposal I greatly desired to contrive a scene that normally does not exist on top of semi-remote mountains. I wanted to create an unforgettable, somewhat improbable, scenario that simultaneously demonstrated my commitment to Linds through action: I would carry a table and chairs up the mountain to create the most beautiful dining we might experience. 

So the proposal plan was hatched.

By the end of April, marriage had become part of everyday conversation for Linds and I. It was inevitable. It was just a matter of when…the element of surprise remained in my favor. Linds and I, true to our busy selves, scheduled out our summer hikes in early May. I was quick to put a Stuart Peak hike - under the guise of revisiting the mountain in the new year together for the first time - on the calendar for early June.

En route to camp on the shoulder of Stuart Peak.
Saturday, June 8th, I picked up Linds from work and headed up into the Rattlesnake. To cut ourselves off from the reality of work and the hustle and bustle of our lives, I informed Linds that I had requested work off for her the following day (and received her ED's blessing). Obligations released and overnight packs shouldered, we hit the trail around 6:30PM. We made quick work of the ~6.5 miles and ~3,000 vertical feet that lay between the trailhead and where we would ultimately pitch the tent. As crimson and orange faded to black, we zipped ourselves into the tent and promptly followed the sun's lead. 

Sunrise over the east ridge of Stuart Peak.
Linds in the foreground.

The soft glow of dawn greeted us at 4:45 the following morning. Calm, clear and high 40s, the day was, by mountain standards, perfect. We prepared hot drinks, packed for the summit hike and set off around 5:30AM. The sun welcomed us within minutes over the east ridge of Stuart Peak just as we gained the south ridge of the mountain. We took several pictures along the way as the sun threatened to swallow us in its splendid light.

Roughly one-hundred feet below the summit, I paused, turned to Linds and asked her to look at her watch, wait five minutes, then follow me to the summit. Somewhat befuddled, but welcoming the rest, she obliged. I took off for the summit!

Summit reached, I scrambled - struggled really - to unload the contents of my pack: a fold-up table, two camp chairs, iPod speakers/iPod, sparkling grape juice, champagne flutes and, of course, the ring. So flustered by anticipation was I, setting everything up without breaking anything became my primary objective. The scene was utterly thrilling: endless mountain ranges as far as the eye dare view, sun ensconcing the summit and surrounding peaks and the love of my life five minutes away. Hurriedly, I set up the table, tablecloth, chairs and music. I cued up 'Untitled #4' from Sigur Ros' Untitled album and maxed out the volume, coating the landscape with a layer of post-rock transcendence. 

The scene was set.

A sense of peace came over me as I seated myself in front of the table setting. Ring in hand, it was done. The planning that began nine months prior had come to fruition. I watched as Lind's came over the horizon line and neared my seated position. She dropped her pack and sat next to me. I don't recall what I said exactly or how she responded. After a minute or two of sitting, I sat up, raised to one knee, turned to Linds and asked her to marry me. Tears of joy were released. For both of us the wait was over. After a couple of moments of tears, she responded "yes, of course I will". 

Toasting to the engagement on top of Stuart Peak.
We spent the next several minutes seated on the ground in a warm embrace. All of the planning did not take into account the sum of the elements being greater than their component parts. The real quickly became surreal and fantasy, for a moment, was the new normal. We eventually made use of the chairs and table and enjoyed Bernice's cinnamon rolls, a slideshow of portraits of us (how self-indulgent), sparkling grape juice and one of the most beautiful breakfasts either of us could have imagined! 

After spending about an hour and a half on the summit, we packed up and headed down to explore the lakes before returning to camp and returning to our friends, families and communities to share the news!

Jumping for joy on the summit of Stuart Peak!
I feel blessed beyond belief to have been given the opportunity to be with Linds, a woman who has provided a new level of clarity, joy and a hopeful future. Joy is in our hearts as we begin this journey together.

Onward and upward,


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