Because Neil was gigging and out of town for my 21st birthday weekend, he took me on a picnic to celebrate a week later. I love picnics and daytrips and escaping the well-worn pathways I tread through the community --home to work, work to home, home to riverside park, repeat--and going somewhere a bit more out of the ordinary. We packed some food and headed south toward Stoddard after I got done with work about a week ago, stopping at an overlook nestled up against the Mississippi.
Neil brought along this scratchy faded-sage blanket for us to sit on. It's functional, sure, but cute? Could it be called cute in any universe? Yes, I'm a snob. I love textiles and I recently bought not one but two functional and cute outdoor blankets, so, eh, I gave him a bit of trouble, asking why he didn't bring my aesthetically pleasing blankets. His response?
"Oops. Well, just take a picture of this one and complain about it on your blog." Said with a slight smile, he knows what will appease me. This cute boy is completely resigned to his fate, I'll tell ya that.
Presents! I was so happy to receive a reusable water bottle because I'm ashamed to say I've been using and refilling disposable water bottles for too long now. I do own a reusable water bottle but have always found it too challenging to wash, so I've avoided using it. Neil has often heard me lamenting the issues I find with all sorts of water bottles we come across, so I'm delighted to say that I love this new gift! Though I'm still searching for my Goo be Gone to get that sticker residue off.
Quote that made me love him more than ever? "What could be more Bri-ish? Removable pads?"
My next present, wrapped artfully in a plastic bag.What could it be?
A cute message from Neil was included with each of my presents. Prior to my birthday I told Neil: "I don't need you to buy me anything; in fact, don't. Save money. All I want is a letter. Or maybe, a lot of letters." At this he saw my eyes light up as he simultaneously shrank back, concerned at the amount of emotional output he would have to expel to satisfy my never-ceasing appetite for the written word. I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart--Facebook wall posts don't exactly do it for me. And while I bug him for letters year-round, one time he definitely can't shirk my request is on my birthday. *Evil cackle*
Vase from the UW-L ceramics sale!
*A brief note regarding Neil's notes: So, if you don't know Neil you are probably reading the notes he wrote to me and thinking, What is wrong with this guy? Is he educated? Why is he spelling some words weirdly? Eez? Leef? Huh?
Neil is actually a very smart fellow. He scored high honors upon our college graduation while I earned only honors, something I occasionally grumble about. He can make your head spin with his knowledge of religious philosophy and he was accepted to one of the top graduate-level music programs in the country with a scholarship. He is a catch. But to escape the clamor of his intellect, he reverts to a silly, sly self. I noticed years ago that his obsession with capuchin monkeys was growing, and so when he'd run around acting crazy and boyish I christened this new persona Monkey Neil. He loves his nickname (I still refer to him as MN) and proudly reverts to monkeyish behavior at moments. It's quite cute, though I noted about a year ago that all of the letters that I had taken such care to guilt out of him were filled with monkey spelling and grammar, AKA eef, eez, leef, monkeh, etc... I realized that if I didn't reign in the monkeyness, the only non-electronic written record of our relationship would be monkeyfied. Monkey spelling will be hard to explain to my biographers when I'm dead, so I now urge him to keep the monkey outpourings to a minimum with letters.
There you have it! A brief history of Monkey Neil. I know it probably sounds really bizarre.
MN also gave me a Symphony bar (my favorite!) but it was melty. Hence his face.
As you can see, everything was a bit... dewy, lending to the ghoulish appearance I'm sporting. Neil told me to shut my eyes and he handed me this, not letting me open them up til he took a picture.
Recognize this fine feline? It's Monsieur the cat! Told you Neil was obsessed. Cat adoration is not something I have to force on him, unlike much of the rest of our shared life.
My last present that I didn't get until last weekend? Two of these beautiful library mugs. I already packed them away, though, as I don't trust anyone in our dirty boy house not to break them :)
Neil rested, post-food.
The dreaded mayflies were out and about as we walked to the car to do a bit more exploring.
About a minute past the overlook we'd picnicked at, we found the area that I'd visited with my grandpa on the way back from the Prairie du Chien flea market last month.You know, the area he designed and everything... no big deal...
Everything was so verdant that it almost looked unreal. We explored in the muggy heat, trampling around the deserted and slightly overgrown paths, pausing for photographs, never sure if the photos we snapped were good or not. You never know until later, but I think we got some good shots.
Doesn't it look like the greenery is engulfing me? That's how it felt to be in the thick of it, too.
After uploading the pictures from that day, I also came across a significant amount of shots where my facial expressions were, uh, strikingly similar. The raw, no-holds-barred annoyance I was aiming at my bumbling boyfriend was perfectly preserved.
Please note that these photos were taken about 30 minutes apart from each other. Also note that there were more, but I was afraid people would think I was truly evil if I posted the whole series of them :)
The reason for my perturbed state is that my MN is stunningly similar to my mother in that once he holds a camera in his clutches he waits and waits and waits to snap a picture, like maybe the perfect moment will come after making the subject self-conscious and irritated. In contrast, I snap away, hoping to get lucky with some candids in addition to planning out the ideal moment to snap a picture. With digital cameras, why wait? I expect that 1/6 of the photos taken will be kept, the rest deleted, so I try to train Neil to snap away. These photos were taken when I was waiting, saying, What are you doing?! I'm sure. Or expressing some equally high maintenance sentiment. The crazy is particularly tangible in the second photo, I'd say. Alas, if only it could've captured the nose flare.
What a good boyfriend, taking the abuse, hoisting my bag around.
The end of our exploration, humidity hair having gotten the best of me, but you cannot beat that view. Oh driftless region, oh, you've made me feel like a Wisconsinite. Finally.
And thus concludes a spectacular day trip facilitated by my charmingly silly and thoughtful boyfriend. We both bring our own brand of insane to the table, but I think we do a good job of tolerating each other, propping each other up, and growing up together. Relationships are messy and challenging and lonely sometimes, but this boy gets me, he really does.