Quarks and leptons were formed a small fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Quarks condensed to forms baryons, including protons and neutrons. These baryons were fused into light atomic nuclei in the heat of the very early Universe. Light nuclei were fused into heavier nuclei, such as carbon, in the cores of stars over the ensuing several billion years.
These nuclei were returned to the interstellar medium by the deaths of their progenitor stars. The most explosive stellar deaths produced even heavier elements, such as gold. In the cold of space, these nuclei captured elections to become full atoms. Some of the atoms were captured by gravity as part of a newly formed planet that would soon be the home of many forms of life.
After being geologically and biologically processed for billions of years, a small collection of the carbon atoms formed crystal lattices that one species on the planet found particularly valuable. Three of them were cut, polished and placed on a circle made of gold that had been taken from another part of the planet’s crust. At this point, I entered this cosmic tale.
I had decided to propose to Kelly and spent a few days shopping. When I selected the store where I would buy her engagement ring, I already knew what kind I wanted. I specified a three stone white gold or platinum ring with a central diamond flanked by blue sapphires, which were to match another ring she wares. I also knew the quality and other specifications I wanted for the diamond. The store had several three stone rings with three diamonds. After some study and discussion, I chose one and had them replace the two outer diamonds with sapphires.
I tied the ring to a card using a silver colored ribbon and placed it in an envelope. I would propose when I made my first visit from Indiana to Columbus on Feb. 20. In high school, more that ten years ago, I purchased the card because I thought was very romantic. I had no one to receive it at the time, but I hoped that I someday would.
When planning this trip, I asked Kelly if she wanted to take a walk down to the Olentangy River, which flows through the Ohio State campus. She really likes rivers, so it seemed like an appropriate spot for the proposal. She had explicitly told me that she wanted to be surprised, so I did my best to give her no clues about my true reasons for this walk. However, when proposing to someone as intelligent and insightful as her, the element of surprise is difficult to achieve. Since I asked about this walk specifically several weeks before the visit, she strongly suspected that this was when I would propose.
On the walk, we saw a sun dog in the western sky, which looks like a fragment of a rainbow in the clouds near the sun. We also saw a hawk eating a duck near Mirror Lake, so I am glad that we do not believe in omens. I was a little quiet on the walk but did not betray the intense anxiety and excitement I felt in anticipation the question of the question I was about to ask.
When we arrived at the bank of the river, I tried to guide us to a spot where I could kneel in on gravel or rock instead of mud, but I was unsuccessful. I told her that I had a card for her, took it out of my coat pocket, and handed it to her. This confused her because she had been expecting an engagement ring and did not think anyone would put one in a card. So, I did manage a surprise proposal in the end!
When she opened the card and saw the ring, I assumed the traditional position kneeling on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?” With a quiet excitement, she said “Yes.” She hugged me while I was still kneeling, which almost knocked us both over. We then moved to sit on a nearby picnic table, place the ring on her finger and begin planning our wedding.