Many people have written me to find out what ever happened with the ring. Last I wrote the bidding was up to $20,000. Sorry for the delayed follow-up. After the frenzy of the auction, I had to immediately attend to my freelance writing, which has gone neglected for months. So, I’ve been buried in work.
But the good news is that my current office is outdoors. As I type, my bare feet are kneading warm sand, and waves from the Bay of Banderas roll in a few yards away. Pelicans are dive-bombing the rich aqua waters, and this thatched palm roof provides cool protection from the sun.
But the best thing is this: the ring sold and I carry with me a portion of the money–$1,000—to deliver to the local veterinarian here, a beautiful woman named Pamela. For years, Pamela has been turning this coastal village into a dog paradise, mostly on volunteer –time through spaying, neutering, grooming, and treating whatever ails them. This minute, I’m surrounded healthy community-owned canine. A basset hound snores by my side, a fat labrador chases a tossed coconut husk in the surf, and a bulldog begs guacamole from sun bathing beauties.
The ring is currently en-route to Alabama. I sent it off certified mail from the post office days ago. For $45.00, it’s being treated with the utmost care: under lock and key along the entire journey.
Any day now, it will arrive at the house of Brent and Aly, a couple who learned about the ring from the Himalayan Raptor Rescue newsletter that Scott Mason (one of the vagabond philanthropists) sent out months ago.
Brent and Aly have been married for 5 years, but he never bought her an engagement ring. Brent is not a big believer in diamonds. Instead, in honor of their shared love of road-trips, he presented her with an ‘engagement van.’
But as free-thinking as she was, Aly really did want a diamond. Brent said that every time they passed a jewelry store, she’d get a longing expression on her face, and he’d wind up feeling like a bit of a heel. So, now–five years later–Brent has found in my ring the solution to his dilemma: It’s a diamond Aly loves, and a diamond he can believe in.
Brent clocked in the winning bid of $22,000 at 11:57 pm. I was gathered with supporters in my friend Jeanine’s living room. A practicing Buddhist, she placed the ring on her shrine, in the bronze lap of a small statue named Dzambala—a corpulent deity that signifies wealth. To pass the night, we ate pizzas, drank wine, and shared stories. By the time Brent’s bid came in, we were heavy-lidded, but celebratory. At midnight, I let my breath out, fully feeling the effort of the previous months culminate in success. And just after midnight, an email popped up in my box:
Hello and thanks for giving Aly and I the opportunity to be a small part of your journey with your Grandmother’s ring. We’re definitely happy to be the lucky ones with the bid! I assure you that Aly and I will take good care of the ring and not take it or its story for granted! Thanks again so much for this opportunity and we’ll definitely get in touch tomorrow.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
I called Brent the next day to sort out delivery details. I was amazed to learn that he was willing to wire the $22,000 immediately into my account—even before I mailed the ring. What trust! He also invited me to come visit and stay in their spare room any time—an offer that I will definitely accept sometime in the near future.
While it’s true that I entertained certain fantasies that the ring would sell for $100,000, or some such show-stopping amount, in the last days of the auction, my mindset began to change. Web traffic from New York City began to escalate and paranoia set in: What if carnivorous diamond sellers were planning to buy the ring and turn it over for a profit? True, I still would have made money for the vagabond philanthropists, but it not exactly the fate I had in mind for the ring.
So, as this particular worry nibbled on me, I began reflect more on the ring and what it represented. My main concern became less about courting an out-of-this-world final bid and more about finding it a good, meaningful home.
After Brent’s $22,000 deposit registered in my account, I walked the three blocks to the post office with a small box, tape, and packing materials. The ring, still on my finger, sparkled in the morning light and I felt my eyes start to sting as I walked down the downtown sidewalks. It was starting to hit me: I was on the brink of a leap. I’m really going to do this. I’m really going to say goodbye to my grandmother’s ring forever. For the previous months, I’d been mostly thinking about the ring as just-a-rock. But now this surge of emotion was forcing me face this other truth:
Selling the ring was a pretty radical thing to do.
A couple of years ago, I enacted the best New Year’s resolution I’ve ever come up with: to jump in every body of water I came across. Unlike vowing to quit getting angry, jealous, or irritated, jumping in water felt small, accomplishable, and somehow significant. There was, I intuited, a secret to vitality tied up in plunging into rivers.
I must have been pushing against childhood memories–memories of the way my own mother approached swimming. While I was having the time of my life doing summersaults, playing dolphin, and hosting underwater tea parties, she’d wade around in the shallows with the other moms, hair pinned into a bun, and hands never touching the water. At eight years old, I made up my mind never to swim in this way. But, as I’ve aged, more and more I have found myself seized by wimpy sensations when it comes to water.
My New Year’s resolution turned out to be a huge success. I jumped into the placid surface of Jenny Lake near the Tetons, into the rapids of the Rgoue River, and dashed through the pounding shoreline of the Bay of Banderas. I’d take deep inhales, firm up my resolve, and plow into the water full-force—without hesitation. And, everytime, I’d emerge from the water a different human—vitalized and full-of-it. Shocked alive.
I’m thinking about this now because as I walked to the post office with the ring and packing materials that morning, it felt something like standing on the edge of one of those cold rivers: Sort of intimidating, exciting, and imperative to really living.
I removed the ring from my hand, and packaged it up along with a handwritten note to Brent and Aly. At the counter, the clerk explained that my packaging job didn’t fit in the certified mail requirements: wrong tape, wrong box covering. He handed me a curly strip of brown packing tape and a pair of scissors and instructed me to do it over.
I found a brown grocery sack in the lobby recycle bin and cut it to specs. I wrapped it around the box and was dismayed to find the tape had to be moistened in order to stick. I fished my water bottle from my bag and dribbled a few drops it along the tape. While fixing the seams, the sticky-strip clung to my sleeve, to the countertop, and to a strand of my dangling hair. By the time I was finished, the box looked like a third-grader’s art project, held together with homemade flour-paste. No one would ever guess that a $22,000 ring waited inside.
The clerk chuckled and weighed the package. I paid for the $45.000 insurance and delivery fee. As the postman disappeared into the backroom, I caught my last glimpse of the box. The moment took my breath away, but I calmed myself with this mantra, gleaned from the wall of a schoolroom I visited in Nepal:
If wealth is lost, nothing is lost.
Sometimes people ask me how I was able to part with such a special ring. Here is my answer:
I just took it off my finger, and let it go.