Two Outta Three Rating:
I'm so glad that Jeff finally shared the story of his proposal on the summit of Mount Acadia in the stunning national park of the same name off the coast of Maine during our family vacation last August! Because that means that now I can finally write that post I've been dying to write. You know the one. The one that starts, "And I said, 'yes'!" and ends with "And that is why my engagement ring has to be the most thoughtful, amazing and meaningful gift ever. EVER."
I am about as far as you can get from a girly-girl jewelry nut. I've been wearing the same silver stud earrings since high school (not that you can tell through the tarnish), and I have exactly one necklace that I wear regularly, day or night (my golden Brigid's Cross). I've shuddered and sneered at women who proudly announce their opinion that an engagement ring should cost at least two month's worth of the would-be suitor's salary if it's supposed to mean anything. How shallow and silly. Plus, I'm a Gemini — I tend to wave my hands around a lot and bash whatever rings I try to wear into misshapen lumps.
But I have to admit, I am thrilled with my engagement ring. Thrilled, and honored. I can't help but feel cherished and blessed when I gaze at its warm, rose glow on my finger or feel the soft strength of its interior encircling me. It has to be the most thoughtful, amazing and— but I'm getting ahead of myself!
The Story Before the Story
And I said, "Yes! Let's do it! Let's actually get married!" But this was back in February, soon after Valentine's Day. The anniversary of our first date was coming up soon, the first time we met in person after corresponding online for more than three years. We were caught in a whirlwind of warm-fuzzy reminisces of romance in the midst of gray winter doldrums. I honestly can't remember who suggested it first, but suddenly it was a real possibility. We were actually going to get married.
Not as romantic sounding as a proposal, I guess. These days, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of couples decide to get married this way. They talk, they joke, they make overtures. And somewhere along the way, they decide if it's feasible, if it's smart, if it's the next step they really want to take. And only then do they start saving for a ring. That's what we did, anyway. We started saving money, and I started day-dreaming about engagement rings. Because I still wanted a story to tell, and time in which to tell it. I wanted Jeff to do some soul-searching in the meantime and be sure it was what he wanted. He'd been down this road once before, after all, though this time there was no impending third party tipping the scales. So at first, it was just day-dreaming during dreary end-of-winter months, thinking about what kind of ring I might want, and what kind of wedding I might want, and what kind of marriage I might want. I knew they weren't going to be your average run-of-the-mill deal, at least that much was certain.
So we looked around, and talked, thought about when it might be a good time to get married, and how long before that would be a good time to "get engaged." The proposal itself was a rite of passage, and I knew I wanted a year of fiancée-hood to prepare and plan for a wedding. So we worked our way backwards and penciled in the possibilities. And then, I found the perfect ring on the perfect website. Custom made, a dream of eco-friendly, Pagan-friendly, budget-friendly awesomeness. So we set to work saving, got in touch with the makers, and half a year later, there we were, on top of Mount Acadia, with sun and sea air and tears in our happy, shining eyes.
For Love of the Earth
This engagement ring hits all three of our Two Outta Three criteria: it is eco-friendly, Pagan-friendly and, well, despite being the most expensive thing I've ever put on my body, it's pretty gosh-darn budget-friendly, too, all things considered.
And yes, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you: it's made of wood!
So before I get into my little spaztastic rant about the Pagan symbolism of this gorgeous little piece, I want to take a moment to thank Nicola and David Finch of Touch Wood Rings. A couple living simply and sustainably in British Columbia, they thrive solely on solar power and naturally-fallen wood on their fifty acres of land up in the blessed wilds of Canada. David crafts rings from wood harvested sustainably from their own property, gathered by family living nearby, or collected from scrap wood that would otherwise find its way into a landfill (check out the Warmth of Wood blog for more pictures of his beautiful work). These artists take seriously their commitment to "right livelihood." On their webpage, they write:
We do our utmost to cause no harm to people or the environment. We certainly have no illusions that our wooden rings will change the world, but each wood ring we make means perhaps, that a little less gold or another diamond is not mined. David uses such a tiny bit of wood to create a ring that we couldn't use up a tree in a lifetime of making wooden rings. We are always striving to lighten the load on our planet.Jeff and I are proud to support (and brag about) independent artisans like David and Nicola, whose lives are devoted to creating things of beauty born of their love of the earth and each other. In an age when blood diamonds and dirty gold desecrate the land and exploit the resources of the earth as well as the people who share it with us, my heart breaks with gratitude to know that there are people out there doing such blessed and important work. Thank you, David and Nicola!
Beyond the earth-friendly source of its raw materials, and the creative and independent source of its craftsmanship, this engagement ring also embodies a great deal of meaning and symbolism. Crafted of beautiful rosewood with a light oak interior, a band of crushed turquoise and jade runs through it. Each of these has a special significance to the relationship that Jeff and I share, as well as the marriage that we hope to create together.
The Sacredness of Trees
Being Druids, Jeff and I are unabashedly tree-huggers. So the fact that this ring is crafted of wood is itself of great spiritual significance to us. We honor trees as ancient beings of wisdom, as bridges between the realms of land, sea and sky. Reaching ever deeper with their roots to touch dark waters at their source, while striving ever higher with their outstretched limbs to catch the sweet sunlight as it falls, trees can teach us about patience, endurance, receptivity, ancestry, hope, renewal and connection.
The oak tree is especially sacred to the Druids, whose very name connects them with the great tree as a symbol of wisdom, truth, strength, stability, and a doorway between the worlds. A beneficent and holy tree to the ancient Celts, it was a fitting choice for the inner lining of the engagement ring: a symbol of a sure foundation rooted in trust and truth, balanced between the worlds while also acting as a doorway, a threshold into a new life.
To balance the light, masculine energies of the oak, we chose the dark, feminine (but fiery) rosewood for the exterior of the ring. A tree of strong associations with passion, love and romance, rosewood echoes the themes of our engagement — a prelude to our more formal commitment in marriage, the energies of rosewood celebrate the beauty and passion of our relationship, as well as its more playful aspects (while grounding that sense of fun and humor without it giving way to frivolous or callous triviality).
Where Jeff proposed to me — on the summit of Mount Acadia — we were surrounded by scraggly oaks and flourishing pines, graced all around us with the golden humming of honey bees and the buzzing of blue-green dragonflies dancing in the sun.
The Silent Lives of Stones
Jeff and I also honor the Earth, and the ancient bones of the earth giving structure and form to this landscape that we love. Stones have always been symbols of commitment and enduring relationship — they hold in their smoothed or jagged surfaces the memories of millennia, of the winds, rains and glaciers that wore away the rocks in the dance of erosion, of the forces arising from the earth herself jostling and shifting in earthquakes. Crystals embody in a very literal way some of the basic structures of form, mirroring the patterns of atoms bonded to atoms, acting as conduits and conductors. Crystals even play a role in everyday life, making LCD ("liquid crystal displays") possible in everything from laptops to mood rings. So naturally, we wanted to include stone in the engagement ring.
I knew right away that I wanted to incorporate two stones in the band: one to honor my past as an important part of who I'd become, and one to symbolize the new future I was hoping to create with Jeff. For the first, I decided to include a stone from a Valentine's Day love spell I'd performed nearly five years earlier — a spell that, I had long assumed, had failed — and had re-consecrated the Valentine's Day just before meeting Jeff in person for the first time. It was a small piece of tumbled, dark green stone, most likely jade, which I had chosen for its resonance with energies of peace, harmony, healing, balancing and good luck. Jade has long been considered a lucky stone, as well as a stone connected with love and prosperity. In ancient China, a butterfly carved from jade was worn as a love charm. And though I didn't know it then, jade was also the mystical birthstone of March, the month when Jeff and I first met and finally began our romantic relationship.
For the second stone, Jeff and I decided to go together to our local New Age gift shop, where they had a large display of stones and crystals. Eventually, we chose a small piece of turquoise. Known in some cultures as a "sky stone" or "stone of heaven," turquoise is a stone of power and blessing, with strong ties to the western plains in this country where Native American Indians still craft it into beautiful jewelry. This made it particularly meaningful for Jeff, who has deep emotional connections to that land and its indigenous peoples. A symbol of generosity and affection, it has also been associated with love and marital harmony, as well as the joys of music, celebration and a happy home.
With these two stones, I performed a small cleansing and blessing, before Jeff packed them carefully and mailed them off to Canada where they would be carefully ground down and blended to create the band encircling the engagement ring. When Jeff asked me to marry him, we stood together on the summit of Mount Acadia, a rounded top of smooth, pink granite speckled with the green and blue lichens that thrived in the fresh, clean air.
Afterwards, we hiked back down that great mountain, following the winding wooded path over tree roots and boulders, following the stream that murmured over its rusty-red bed until it found its wandering way all the way down to its cascading outlet into the sound far below. The morning was bright and glorious, the water a blazing blue rivaled only by the sky. There on the shore, on the threshold between land, sea and sky, we paused for a little while, enjoying the sound of ocean water lapping gently against the rocky shore, the tangled growth of the seaweed rustling and swaying with each movement. The tiny snails making their way through a great big world so much grander and more beautiful than they could ever imagine. I think I have never felt more a kin of the snails — life sometimes moving so slowly, so delicately over the great landscape of Spirit and love.
The warmth of wood and stone on my finger, the love and gratitude in my heart for a man who will share his life with me, and allow me to share mine with him, as we celebrate and honor this lovely-crazy world we live in. Who is just a little bit weird, and a little bit nerdy, and a little bit perfect.
And that is why my engagement ring has to be the most thoughtful, amazing and meaningful gift ever.