I rose to this occasion. Literally. Waking just before the alarm clock, I sneaked out of the warm covers and crept around to avoid disturbing the sleep of my wife. She stirred indicating that I failed. After dressing by braille and a kiss to soothe my waking bride, I was into the car and off to the frontier ridge an hour outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. My very mature four wheeled steed took every rise like a champion, gritting its grill in the cold and the dark. It too was ready for a little adventure.
Snooper’s Rock is a beautiful destination for an “ambush” marriage proposal. After Raymond, the future groom, told me about it in our planning session I immediately rushed up the winding road along Suck Creek to find it in the middle of the day. I’m glad that I did. Trying to find the rock in the early darkness of a winter morning would have been too much of a risk. This impressive formation sits high atop the valley floor. It is fully equipped with an ambling river underneath puffs of morning fog. The sun would soon rise over an ideal setting for a marriage proposal. On this dark morning I was still ahead of the swirl of our resident globe. It appears that the adage is still true about the pitch of darkness just before the dawn. As it is, I continue on full alert. I’m traveling alone with my backpacks full of camera equipment. I drive past dimly lit homes whose yards are packed with extra large four-wheel drive Fords and Chevys fitted with empty rifle racks. If not intimidating enough they were all painted in earthy camouflaged tones. I sang hymns to the steel eyed hounds in the yard. It was Sunday morning after all. Onward I followed the rocky road. My pulse raced at the last ranger’s outpost and the Lusk Cemetery. I was thankful for the longevity of solar lit signage. It was cheering to note that some families “go green” in marking the final resting place of their ancestors. Another mile or so past the last gravestone I slowly swirled into my dark destination.
I was not alone. There were three other vehicles in the parking stand. I made sure that none of them looked like the one that belonged to my client, who was to be engaged within the hour. I didn’t sign in at the ranger’s stand, just in case the unsuspecting fiancee’-soon-to-be might recognize my name. Backing my packs, I followed my flashlight beam down the trail to the target sight. In no time to be intimidated by the darkness, I heard voices. A few cautious steps later, I saw tiny beams of light. There were people.
The approach of a large black man didn’t seem to phase the small group of college-aged nature lovers. They seemed to be anticipating the same sunrise and assumed that I possessed the same aims. I wondered how this would impact Raymond’s plans. I decided that honesty was still the best policy. Gingerly, I explained the plans for the proposal. It didn’t take too long for them to canvass the look in my eyes and genuinely proclaim “That’s cool, man!” They sprang into action, grabbing their sleeping bag insulators and backpacks of grub to pull back away from the brink of Snooper’s Rock. “Good kids”, I thought nearly aloud.
After setting up my camera gear, I heard more voices. More kids. Two couples exited the path and joined our formation on the rock. Just behind them was Raymond with his unsuspecting guest of honor. She didn’t seem to be phased by the hour or the tiny crowd. The little crew of prior visitors didn’t miss a beat. They suddenly got interested in the other portion of the valley floor below. I carried on as if on assignment for the National Geographic. Sidling up to the newer visitors that marched in with my client, I used the same signs to convey my secret. Standing behind Raymond and his girlfriend, I turned back and pointed to my own wedding band and then at the two seated in front of me. They broke into big smiles. They got it. They too, settled back on the rise behind Snooper’s rock to enjoy all of the proceedings.
The sun broke across the horizon right on schedule. The thin line of orange brushed back the morning blue. It was beautiful. Both of my cameras were at the ready. Another set of couples joined us on the rock. Invoking the same procedure, I informed the newest guests of the nature of the proceedings. To my surprise, they too fell back in line with smiles on their faces. Time stood still–frozen in the brisk air. In time, Raymond reached for his backpack. Soon his girlfriend rose to her feet. A reverence fell over the onlookers. It was beautiful. The ring was extended. Her hands rose to cover her sunrise smile. It was soon accepted and the little throng broke into thunderous applause.
This is what I want you to know about love. Everyone up on that rock that morning knew what to do. Just before that they knew what to think. At least six of them might have been “in like”, if not in love. They just understood that It was not their time this time. Their plans were altered in favor of the couple they did not know at the front of the rock. I don’t know who the others were. I just know that they knew that this other couple’s moment had arrived and they silently voted their full support. February fourteen is for love and it operates well on that level. February fourteen kind of love does not succeed without community. Those other visitors on Snooper’s Rock accepted their invisible trophies for their silent role as Best Supporting Actors. I hope that their time comes just at the right time when there are observers ready to applaud. Let’s all be ready just for them and others like them.– KK