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Off the Grid: A wetting in the woods

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

On my kitchen counter, I have a box of little cards with words on them. Every morning, as my coffee is brewing or I’m chatting with my kid about the day, I pull one from the jar and try to decipher the grand cosmic meaning in that particular though random card. On Saturday, my wedding day, I pulled “purification.”

I was feeling purified already because I accidentally got some gluten and blew past my ambitious wedding day weight goal in about 48 hours. I pondered the word for a brief moment before slugging down some charcoal pills with my coffee and considering publishing a guide blog for celiac brides – how to write gluten-free vows, for example. Then I went about the day.

If you’ve ever had a wedding, you’ll know that such a day is a whirlwind of disjointed interactions, mascara consultations and crippling anxiety during which people tell you – typically in 5-minute intervals – to “stay present” and “enjoy the moment.” I tried by going for a run with my brother, counting the number of bobby pins in my hair and drinking an obscene amount of caffeine.

I didn’t really drop into my body until an hour before the ceremony. I was standing in my bedroom, the third floor tower in my home, staring out the window at the busy bodies and arriving guests far below me. They were weaving between the trees, wandering down garden paths and hugging old friends with words I could see but not hear. Only, why did they have umbrellas?

My head jolted up as I scanned the mountains on the horizon. A thick wall of grey was approaching, an undeniable drenching heading steadily toward my granite hilltop. It was not a spring sprinkle or a squall, but the kind of gush that makes me think God has a pressurized garden hose and my ponderosas must look parched.

The people who tell you that rain on your wedding day is “good luck” probably did not just call off their wedding tent rentals because “the forecast looks clear.”

When my surrogate mother stepped into my room, I fell into her tiny but fierce arms and sobbed. I cried at the rain, the world, the loved ones who could not or would not attend. I cried for fear of forgetting my vows (not that there was any pressure for the writer to be eloquent and articulate), tripping on the rocks, or merely failing at marriage. I cried because more than 100 people ages 1 to 75 were standing in the rain, waiting to bless my union.

And they still looked happy, setting soggy envelopes on a soaked gift table.

I cried because I had finally come to understand love, and he was waiting for me to descend the steps of our home. And I probably was going to slip in the mud.

“It’s too much,” I said. “I feel too much.”

I cried until tears washed away everything but the love. When I was done, the rain had stopped and the green mountainside was glistening as wisps of cloud crept out of the canyons. My room cleared. Women scattered out of the house and into the yard to find seats. Someone handed me a bouquet. I heard the strum of a guitar. I took a deep breath of fresh woodland air and stepped onto the dirt.

Stretched before me was an infinite expanse of rock and grass, shining and clean, smelling heavy of dense forest and wet soil. And there was Charlie. And 100-some-odd other smiles, but all I saw was his and everything he ever was or would be, and our love and our future and the steadfast rock we were building it upon.

And it was pure.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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