The sky is clouded unlike my mind which is clear and focused. Peeking blue sky taunts the six others joining me on this third evening in June, a Monday. As cold as Minnesota can get, the briskness in the air is abnormal for this late in the spring. Nevertheless each person in our group, a friend or family member, is too excited to notice the cold. None but one has ever been stand up paddle boarding and none but one has ever asked the woman of their dreams for her hand in marriage. This is the night I tell my best friend what she means to my experience and why she is my favorite part of life.
Some group members tag along to witness my display of manhood, though I am sure the adventure was a more convincing factor. We all happily sign our lives away and load into the van one by one. At this moment the van feels more like the magic school bus or the yellow submarine. Enchanted, I look at my Abigail with a practiced smile and she knows something serious is going on in my head. I know that to her the proposal is more important than the wedding ceremony. I try to hold back my enthusiasm.
We drive for a short while, unload the van, and suit up with the appropriate gear: a paddle, life jacket, and knowledge of the river. I am more ready than anyone to conquer this river of life and I know it. The mighty Mississippi, much like marriage, is feared by many and respected by most. This woman is exactly what I had been looking for, though more beautiful than imagined. Due to her loving nature my parents joke that she is going to be great with kids, especially after being a full-time life coach for yours truly. After an informative paddle instruction everyone is prepared to walk on water with Stand Up Minnesota. We shove off shore into a tranquil float, paddles in hand, our knees on the boards.
“Standing up on the board is easy once you get your sea-legs,” I assure the group. When looking at my parents I see Abigail and myself thirty years from now laughing while we try out the latest craze in recreation. Maybe we will be skate-wakeboarding behind personal hovercraft, or we will be glissading a mountainside with a pedal-powered toboggan; hopefully by 2043 every household has one of those hydro-powered jetpacks.
I pause to really absorb the natural world along the shorelines which contrasts nicely with the picturesque St. Paul skyline; I am in what most would call heaven. Little does Abigail know her great-great-grandmother’s engagement ring is in my swimsuit pocket; I get that full-bodied feeling when you know a scene is something that will never be forgotten. She is the most enthralling noun I have been able to find anywhere. She is exciting enough for me to sell my beloved dirt bike months prior in preparation to finance a ring.
Finally Raspberry Island is in sight, over two hours after shoving off, and my composure is barely kept together. We land on the Eastern side of the island greeted by our relief person with Stand Up Minnesota. This is it. The moment is here. Everyone is standing around awkwardly. Some know what is about to happen, some do not. I grab my gorgeous girl by the hand and escort her toward the bandstand on the island under the pretense that I want her to imagine my future band playing up on the stage. The sky is a little pink with the sun setting on the buildings. I give Austin the signal behind Abigail’s back to provoke him into firing up the GoPro camera and my parents follow suit. The adventure, thus far, has been recorded – I want to make sure we get this too. I pull out my speech and she knows exactly what I have been up to. I begin funny and end on a serious note instigating some waterworks, as planned. The speech was five minutes long.
“Abigail Ruth Sheldon, will you marry me?” My heart pounds like that of the class clown after a disruption.
….”Yes!” She states while nodding and smiling. Happiness engages.
Looking back I still ask myself, “That day, the sky was cloudy?”