I met Andrew in the summer of 1998 when we were both trail guides at a camp in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you the whole long story of our meeting, falling in love, and getting married, but the setting to that story is important to the one I’m about to tell, so a few details need to be shared.
Camp Menogyn is a solid five and a half hours from the Twin Cities, and 30 minutes inland from the north shore of Lake Superior - remote and beautiful. Reaching its shores requires the campers (and trail guides) to paddle a canoe across West Bearskin Lake. There are no roads into Camp Menogyn.
As guides, we spent our infrequent days off in the tiny town of Grand Marais, out on Lake Superior. It was here, on the rocky coastline of the big lake, at Artist’s Point, that Andrew proposed to me in 1999. Looking back from Artist’s Point, one sees the crest line of the Sawtooth Mountains which parallel the shore of the lake.
Our wedding rings were made by a jeweler in Grand Marais who based their design off the surrounding landscape. The edges echo the line of the Sawtooths, and in the center the rings were carved into a lakeshore reflecting the surrounding forest – a scene constant in the Boundary Waters. Perfect for two people in love with each other and the outdoors.
Our wedding guests paddled canoes to the shores of West Bearskin, where we said our vows at Camp Menogyn on the first snowfall of the year in the autumn of 2000.
Some people think married couples wear wedding rings to show our status, like a cab driver with a rooftop sign alit: “Unavailable.” For me, it’s a reminder and a connection. I look down at that ring and feel not just the love for my husband, but all of our history – beautiful and challenging alike – as well as the place where we fell in love and said our vows. I love that place.
So when I lost my ring this past February, I struggled to get over it. I told myself it was just a material object, but the loss still felt painful. I ignored Andrew’s every entreaty to replace it. I even scanned the trail at Miwok where I thought I’d dropped it. I was looking for my ring during a race!
The post I wrote about that loss received such lovely comments from you all. Thank you! In particular, I was thinking this summer about part of what Pam said: “I kept waiting for the Gotcha Moment when you find that ring. You may one day yet …”
I can’t say I agreed with her. The idea of having a bit of hope to still find the ring was tempting, but it seemed foolish. And still, her comment stuck with me.
So, have I given away the end of the story yet?
Early in July I was in a blissful post-race haze after Western States. Just beginning my summer vacation, it was likely the best part of my entire year. Friends would arrive that afternoon to celebrate the July fourth weekend, and I swept pine needles from the deck to prepare the yard for the impending celebrations.
You’ll never believe what I found in that mess of pine needles.
I have never squealed so loudly in such excited disbelief in my entire life. Not even when I was a teenage girl. By the time Andrew came running up the stairs to see what was wrong, tears of joy were already streaming down my face. Yup – cried when I lost it, cried when I found it. I’m kind of a crier.
And although I tried very hard to avoid dwelling on the potential symbolism of a lost wedding ring, I am quite happy to inject its recovery with all manner of meaning. Love endures. Don’t give up hope. Pick your own cliché – they’re all positive.
The best I can figure, it came off my finger while shoveling the deck (maybe while removing a glove?), but I simply didn’t notice its absence until I was 200 miles away, 24 hours later. And the craziest thing – it stayed on the deck for five months. Five months of excessive, ridiculous amounts of snow which were repeatedly shoveled off inches at a time. How it didn’t get scooped up in a shovel and tossed into the garden I have no idea.
Here’s the cliché I chose to sum up this experience: Life is crazy, and beautiful, and you never know what might happen. You just never know.