So we got dressed, showered, make-uped (me), lotioned (me again), and packed up extra medicine, cough drops, and tissues. We went out to the Tracker and headed for Spearfish Canyon. There's something about pine trees, mountains, and snow that just feels like Christmas. Like hot chocolate and peppermint. Like being in a nice warm cabin, cuddled up under a blanket. It was beautiful.
This is what we saw . . .
I spent most of the time pointing at things and saying, "Beautiful! Ah! Beautiful!!"
And we also drove up Terry Peak in the snow. I was, of course, nervous about slipping and falling down the mountain. Zeke, not so much. He likes scaring me, though. It was hard for him to freak me out once we saw things like this....
We kept driving around, enjoying the magnificent mountains covered in snow until Zeke noticed the frozen waterfall. So cool! So of course, I had to get out and take pictures. Bridal Veil Falls was completely frozen, and so pretty. Zeke got out of the car, too, and we walked closer to Bridal Veil Falls.
Zeke has always been pretty wonderful about stopping so I can take pictures. He gets it. I have to take pictures so I can remember as much as possible about where I was, about how I felt, about what happened. I take pictures so I can take a little part of the place with me. That's also why I've started collecting rocks from the places we go.
Anyways, I just had to take a picture of the frozen waterfall. There are a few waterfalls throughout the Black Hills, and we saw tons of waterfalls in the spring on our northern Minnesota motorcycle trip, but a frozen one? Way awesome. I walked closer to Bridal Veil Falls to take the picture, and Zeke went to the back of the car, to get a tissue for his runny nose, I assumed. I kept looking at the waterfall, feeling the freezing cold wind begin to pick up. Eventually, Zeke followed me over to the other side of the road. He was silent, taking in the amazing sight in front of us. At least, that's what I assumed. He was so quiet, in fact, that I heard a different sound. A "chink, chink," like the sound of metal on ice. I looked closer. That's when I realized that there was a guy CLIMBING THE FALLS.
Can't see him yet? Here's a closer shot...
Crazy! I, of course, am all excited. Who would ever think of climbing up a frozen waterfall? Crazy South Dakotans! What would ever possess a person to do that? Wouldn't they be cold!?
As I rant and babble, Zeke smiles nervously. He's still quiet. I attributed this to his bad cold. He must not be feeling well, I reasoned, and made a mental note to give him more cough medicine when we got back into the car.
"That's just nuts. Okay, let's keep going!" I said, feeling bad that I'd made him get out of the car when he wasn't feeling so well. Poor guy.
We kept driving, looking at more of the beautiful scenery, talking about how much fun it would be to go live in a cave up in a mountain. Fun, but difficult to get to. And where would Zeke park the motorcycle?
Eventually, as dark began to fall, we headed back to our cozy little cabin. We decided to grill up the pork chops and the last of the green beans and corn. Zeke took care of all of that. He also went outside into the cold again while I looked out of the window.
When he came back inside, we had a lovely meal of pork chops, creamed corn and green beans (cooked in the can), and also had the Cabernet that Zeke had gotten as a farewell gift from his camp. We drank it in disposable plastic cups that we got out of the bathroom. The wrapped in plastic kind. We're so full of class that I can't even stand it. The queen would have been impressed if she woulda been there. Zeke and I aren't much for wine. We both prefer, say, Mike's Hard Lemonade or plain old beer, on the rare occasions that we drink any alcohol. But wine is classy and romantic, and this wine was free... and we didn't like it. Zeke went so far as to mix it with grapefruit juice to make it more palatable. (We ended up giving the rest of the bottle to my parents after we got back to Iowa).
After our unfortunate wine experience and a really delicious meal, it was time to open Christmas presents! Yes, I was aware that it wasn't yet Christmas- it was only December 22. But we figured that before the craziness of family Christmas parties began, we'd exchange our gifts to one another. I went first. I made Zeke an embroidered picture of a motorcycle, as well as a few little embroidered images that will someday be made into a quilt. They're pictures of things that we've seen together, done together, or laughed about.
Then it was Zeke's turn. He'd had a plastic bag in the closet at the cabin that he told me that I couldn't look in. I thought that's where my present was. He pulled out the bag and said that it was my birthday present, not my Christmas present. I opened my birthday present-- it was a travel mug, a water bottle, and a little notebook and pen- all of which are orange and say "Stitch Happy!" on them. So adorable. I'd been looking at them at the camp store, and Zeke knew exactly what I'd wanted. I thanked him and gave him a hug.
"Okay, now the Christmas present," he said.
"Okay!" I love getting presents.
"Um, for this I need you to sit over here," he said, leading me over to a chair in the little cabin kitchen. "And close your eyes."
Now, he had really built up to this present. I am an impatient person, and while I like surprises, I usually ask for 40 million hints when it comes to gifts.
The trouble is, my Hunky Husband is very very good at giving obscure and misleading hints. About a week before our trip, I had concluded that I wasn't going to figure it out, and I should just stop driving myself crazy trying to. His hints had included: Some part of it was made of wood, other people had worked on it, he'd been working on it for a year and a half, he really hoped I would like it (lame one...), and it was smaller than a bread box.
For a long time, I admit that I thought it was an engagement ring. I really did. And then I convinced myself that it wasn't. Of course not. I was just being irrational and too much of a romantic. Head in the clouds. Not gonna happen. No use in getting my hopes up.
About three weeks before the trip, we'd had a conversation that went something like this...
"So, what do you think I got you for Christmas?" Over the phone, I could just hear that Zeke had that mischievous grin on his face. He knew he was driving me crazy.
"I don't know..." I said.
"Just guess. What do you think it is?"
"I... I don't want to tell you."
"Because I just don't."
This went on for about ten minutes, him asking and me refusing to tell him that I thought he was going to propose. I didn't want to pressure him or make him feel like I expected something... He wasn't satisfied with my evasions. He kept asking what I thought the gift was.
"Come on, just tell me. What do you think I got you?" he said, not realizing what was about to happen.
"I don't want to tell you! Okay?! (sniffle) I just... I don't!" I burst into tears. Zeke, in all of his infinite gentleness and kindness, began to laugh. I cried harder.
Eventually, I regained some control over my tear ducts... and told him, very sheepishly..."I think, maybe, well, I used to think it could be an ... well, that you were... going to propose." I began to cry again.
"No. I know, okay? I know it's not an engagement ring and I feel silly that I even brought it up and I don't want you to feel like I'll be disappointed with the gift you give me and I just hate myself because I don't want to be one of those girls and I don't want to-- I mean, I'm only 22 years old and I'm being ridiculous and I'm sorry and I just think that maybe, hold on, I need a tissue." Poor Zeke's head must have been spinning. Although, he's dealt with irrational me before... so this time must not have been so much of a surprise.
As I blew my nose, Zeke finally got a word in edgewise.
"Well, you might be disappointed. I'm sorry." He sounded down. See? I thought. Now I've made him feel bad and I'm just like one of those girls who pushes their boyfriend into things... I'm terrible! And it's definitely not a proposal. I was a little disappointed. I mean, who wouldn't be? But I worked myself back up again, and started looking forward to a longer time of being what Zeke and I already were. We were a great couple! Why did things have to change, anyways?
And suddenly, three weeks later, there I was, sitting on the kitchen chair in our little cabin in the Hills, eyes shut tight, waiting for what I knew was not a proposal. I thought that Zeke had made me something himself- something wooden and cool. And someone had helped him like, sand it or something. I was still pretty excited for that cool wooden thing, despite the fact that it wasn't an engagement ring.
Zeke's coat was hanging on the back of the chair where I was sitting. While my eyes were still closed, I heard him reach into the pocket of his coat. Sneaky hiding place! I thought. This thing is pretty small if he can fit it in his pocket all day without me noticing!
"Okay, you can open your eyes," he said.
There he was, down on one knee in front of me, and in the little mahogany box in his hand was a ring. No way. I stood up and started shaking and crying.
"Will you- " was all he could say before I kissed him.
"Oh! Oh! <Sob sob> Oh Zeke! <sniffle>" was my eloquent response. I continued to cry and hug him. After about five minutes of me crying with him pinned on one knee because I was holding him so tight, we went over to the little couch, which must have been far more comfortable for him than kneeling on the kitchen floor.
I'd been so busy crying and squeezing Zeke's neck off that I hadn't even gotten a really good look at the ring. I was shaking so hard that he couldn't get it on my finger for quite a while, and when I finally did calm down enough to just look at it, I couldn't stop staring. It's perfect for me. It's everything I could have wanted.
He explained, while we sat together on the couch and I stared at my sparkling new ring, that his plan had been to propose at the frozen waterfall. Unfortunately, his plan was thwarted by the climbing guy. It just wasn't the right moment, Zeke said. He was right. The perfect moment was right there, in our little cabin, up in the Black Hills.
It's where everything started, really- where the pine trees and mountains stretch up towards heaven, where two people, in seeing the beauty around them see the beauty in each other, where the very rocks and flowers have a story. Our story is still in the first chapters- I can't wait to see what happens next.