Gathering in a Storm

Last Thursday, FD and I packed our bags and loaded up the truck for yet another trip to Nebraska. But this time, we would be dropping our three dogs off at our veterinarian’s office for boarding, as this trip to Nebraska would be keeping us much too busy to give them the attention they needed – especially miss Lollipop, who is still trying to understand the concept of “house training”. I must admit, it felt a bit strange leaving them behind as they have always traveled with us.

As we motored up the interstate, I couldn’t help but wonder about the coming weekend. How on earth could the recent warm weather turn back to winter so suddenly? Our trees in Oklahoma were leafing out and I had already mowed some areas of the property a couple of times. Baby Bewick’s Wrens  hatched recently in a little bird house on the back porch and the parents were busy feeding them. I worked in the orchard in sleeveless shirts for almost two weeks, and my arms are already tanned a deep brown. As we headed north to Nebraska, the temperatures dropped slightly, but it was still pleasantly warm. Friday would be a good weather day too. But the weather forecasters called for possible blizzard conditions and several inches of snow for Saturday – the day of my niece Rachel’s wedding. I packed a spring dress and peep-toe shoes, hoping for the best. But I also brought a wool coat and boots, just in case.

While wildfires raged back in Oklahoma, FD kept busy on his phone and work laptop all day Friday. Being in the electrical generation and transmission business, he was concerned with fire damage to structures and keeping people safe. With all that going on, he opted to stay back at our accommodations at my sister Juli’s house while Juli and I drove an hour away to Lincoln to the wedding venue. We had volunteered to steam and press table cloths for the reception and help set up for the wedding. As family and friends arrived to help with the setup, it was evident that Rachel was visibly disappointed. The plan for an outdoor wedding had to be discarded due to the predicted weather, and options for squeezing the nuptials ceremony into the reception and dance area were the topic of conversation. After much talk about how to keep things simple, yet elegant, Rachel decided she would not be content unless her guests were comfortable. She opted for casual guest seating around the tables during the wedding, and changing the entry of the wedding party so that the vows could be exchanged within earshot of everyone, where floor space would still allow for a nice flow of dinner traffic to the buffet area, and still allow room for the cake table, the DJ’s setup, and a small dance area. Rachel would not enjoy the wide open space of an outdoor ceremony, or the long walk to meet her groom. Instead, everything would be set up in tighter quarters but, at the end of the day Friday, the setup looked beautiful and Rachel seemed more relaxed.

It was a very long and hot day ironing. I brought my EuroSteam iron, which proved to be a real workhorse. (Photo courtesy of my sister Juli.)
Here, family and friends helped to build an arch to fit the area where the vows would be taken. Mike’s brother, Josh, seemed to have some great carpentry skills! (Photo courtesy of my sister Juli.)
Thankfully, Rachel’s friend Janet, and her cousin, Mary assisted in turning the round table cloths to keep them pressed. Both women worked tirelessly to help out wherever needed. My sister Juli operated another floor steamer to knock out wrinkles in fabric. (Image courtesy of my sister Juli.)
The final setup of tables. (Photo courtesy of Omelea Knuth.)

Saturday morning greeted us with cloudy skies and wind gusting mightily out of the  north. By noon, a heavy drizzle moved in and, soon after, falling temperatures brought snow and sleet. The weather forecast had actually improved though, and the blizzard watch had been dropped. Snow accumulation predictions were also lessened for the area. Most of the terrible weather was to the west, where Interstate 80 had been closed down west of Grand Island. The drive east to Roca Ridge in the Lincoln area was blustery, with sleet and snow pelting down. Fortunately, ice had not yet begun to form on the roads.  Pulling up to the venue, we were surprised to see the parking area already full of vehicles. I knew Nebraska people were tough and the weather often did not deter folks from getting out, but somehow I figured the threat of continued stormy weather might keep many people away this evening.

As we made our way towards the barn where the wedding would take place, we kept our heads down, forging forth in the stinging sleet and gusting wind. I remembered why I hated this part of the country so much. These weather conditions were uncomfortable, and the cold and damp always chilled me to the bone. I could never seem to keep warm, no matter how many layers of clothing I donned. But the truth is, each trip back for the last twenty-eight years has been uncomfortable – not always a discomfort from the weather, but in facing old wounds and hurts, and even anger that seemed to well up in me with each return trip. My thoughts jerked to present as FD hooked his left arm in my right to keep me from slipping on the slick sleet and ice as we scurried up the path to the venue. Just as the doors were opened by a couple of the ushers, a bridesmaid came running out without a coat! She squealed as she ran off to her car, sleet pelting her and wind tearing away at the thin material of her dress. We chuckled a little at her haste! I understood her reasoning for a quick dash out to the car without the burden of putting a heavy, wool coat on.

As we entered the barn, I was taken aback by a feeling… actually more of a vibe and positive energy. The soft glow of light, sweet classical music, and gentle warmth enveloped us. Happy faces of gathering groomsmen and bridesmaids greeted us as we moved to the main room. The photographer and videographer were just finishing up their work with Rachel and Mike. We found the table reserved for our family. I looked around the room and saw extended family and faces of friends and their families I knew from long ago. Everyone appeared happy and joyful. It was a magical feeling – these lights and soft music, smiles and happy chatter, while just outside the windows a blur of white created a bright, but soft, ambient light.

Folks on the bride’s side of the room drove in from one to two hours west of the venue, where the weather was much more treacherous. People on the grooms side came from the local area, and several arrived from Wichita, KS where Rachel and Mike live. In the forefront is my sister Juli and her husband Chris. My sister Lisa’s son, Tyler, is on the left. I tried very hard to talk him into coming back to Oklahoma with us to help me in the pecan orchard, but he isn’t a fan of insects. Just the luck! (Image courtesy of FD.)
Rachel’s Aunt Theo and Uncle Roger won the honor of being the couple in the crowd having been married the longest. When asked what advice they had for the bride and groom her uncle responded, “Always talk with each other and learn to get along.” And then he pointed at his wife and said, “And SHE’S always right!”. (Photograph by Mary Rucker.)

The wedding ceremony was perhaps one of the most beautiful I have ever attended. Even as the sound of sleet pelted down on the roof, and the torrent of white blurred on the other side of the windows, we were safe and warm inside the barn. It felt like being in a bubble of love and comfort. The minister set the tone of the gathering – we were there not only to witness the joining of Mike and Rachel as a couple, but to offer love and support that night, and always. His message was of love and honor, but also of humor and lightheartedness. Just as in nature, life is unpredictable. We must be open and willing to weather the storm. We must bask in the moments of calm and loveliness. And we must find joy and laughter, delighting in life. There were moments that evening that I found myself tearful. Of course we expect women to show emotion, but there were many times I saw the groomsmen and men in the crowd wiping their eyes. This gathering of folks was one of the most loving and caring that I have ever experienced. But I think the moment that tugged at my heart more than anything, was watching the father/daughter dance. My brother had the worst time trying to hold back his emotion while he danced with his daughter. All of the walls of protection and toughness and manliness just melted away. Rachel patiently held the moment, dancing slowly, while allowing her dad to work through his emotions. She needed to see this side of him, we all did, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. We were witnessing something special and real – something we could all relate to, yet often avoid – releasing a flood of emotion and energy, and going to a place within ourselves that we rarely let others see.  Dale and Rachel hugged tightly and longingly as the song ended.

It was apparent all night long, that Rachel and Mike adored each other. They truly seemed to enjoy the entire evening… I didn’t sense one bit of stress. (Photo by Sheila Unger.)
There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd during this dance.
(Photo by Sheila Unger.)
My brother hugs his daughter as the Father/Daughter dance comes to a close. (Image courtesy of FD.)

The night seemed to drift into eternity. We danced and laughed and enjoyed good conversation. I visited with people I had not seen in decades, and I enjoyed meeting Mike and Rachel’s friends. I was happy to be a part of this celebration, of this gathering. I watched young people line dancing to the Wobble, and a few other newer line dances I didn’t know.  I thought of my own days of youth and wondered how it had all flown by so quickly. And yet, I felt exhilaration about the understanding in my own life, and it pleased me to know that I am where I am now – an auntie to these young people, to be there for them, with a listening ear and a loving heart. My role had changed over the years, and I liked it.

Quite a few of us enjoyed dancing to 70’s and 80’s music. (Photo courtesy of Janet Schaefer.)
Rachel and her brother Jeff have always had a very close relationship. I caught Jeff smiling all night long, watching his sister enjoy her night. (Photo courtesy of Omelea Knuth.)
Line Dancing was popular all night long. (Photo courtesy of Janet Schaefer.)

In the days that have followed our return, I continue to be filled with a vibe and energy from that night. What a gift it was to be so touched by a gathering of loving people. And the storm that might have kept people from not attending, ended up being the force that enveloped us all in a tight cocoon that night, celebrating love, joy, friendship and a new beginning.

This was probably one of my favorite images – you know me and my love of nature! (Photograph by Mary Rucker.)

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


28 thoughts on “Gathering in a Storm

  1. Lori this was so sweet and entertaining. Loved reading about the wedding. It will be one to remember and talk about for the rest of the newlyweds life. The snow, I think, actually gave everyone there a feeling of warmth. I believe you are right about the last photo. It is beautiful in what seems to be a monotone with those beautiful trees and the snow adding so much to a memorable photograph.

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    1. I liked the sweep of the dress in the wind in that last photo too. I can’t imagine how chilly Rachel and Mike must have been in that pose. They were out there a little while!
      It certainly was a special day. I think many of us will remember it for years to come.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Steve. And they look like they are so focused on each other that they are unaware of the storm going on around them! No editing was done on this photo either – my arms would be all goosebumps and red from the cold!

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  2. Lori, I’ve got a tear in my eye too! Thank you for sharing this special day with us. I loved that last photo too. So true whatever Mother Nature can throw at us we have the capacity to rise above anything with love and humour. (But I’m sure your animal friends will be glad to have you home soon). I have spotted a rather large stag and one female deer passing through our property in the past week which is unusual because we are in more open farmland. I hope they can evade the hunters and roam freely.

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    1. That wedding was special. I know the feeling will always be with me. Some events just leave a big mark on your heart. That “bubble of love” feeling in the room is something I have never experienced before. These were good people gathered to celebrate with Mike and Rachel. So many good vibes and love!

      Oh, I hope too this stag and doe can keep safe. Our hunting season for deer is over here (ended January 15th) but of course there are always poachers on the hunt. Our bucks have lost their antlers now, and are already growing new ones! The does are beginning to show big bellies – it will only be another month and we’ll have little fawns running around!

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    1. It was the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever attended, but mostly it was the feeling of the whole evening. And I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that last photo was for the subjects and photographers! Rachel and Mike don’t look as if they mind the weather a bit!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. OK, now I am crying here in Minnesota after reading this loving wedding story. It could not have been more perfect, despite the blizzard.

    And I especially love that the father-of-the-bride showed his emotions.

    What a memorably wedding. I read love in your words, Lori.

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    1. Thank you, Audrey. I knew you would understand the essence of the winter storm and the gift that it actually provided. That room was a warm bubble of love. It wouldn’t have felt the same without the sleet, snow and wind. Imagine that – finding something to be thankful for in a snow storm!

      My brother came back to our table and said, “That was HARD. I just could not stop messing my face up.” I do not think he can ever realize how that whole room connected to him. Emotional breakdowns like that tug at all of us. Ah, the power of love.

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  4. And now I’m going to cry too! What a beautiful ceremony. I love that the weather was frightful outside but inside it was cozy and warm with love and hope. I think it’s a great metaphor for weathering what marriage is really like. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but if you can seek comfort in one another and learn patience, you can weather nearly any storm.

    I know what you mean about changing roles. I’m finding the transition into an older woman/auntie interesting. Sometimes it feels good and natural; other times I look in the mirror and think, “What’s happening!”

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  5. I have a friend in Kansas who’s a professional photographer. He works a lot of weddings, and his photos are fabulous — creative, well-staged, memorable. But I don’t recall anything he’s done that’s any better than that last photo. That one will evoke emotion and memory for decades to come.

    As for the other photos, they evoke the pleasure of casual, country weddings that I’ve attended. My totally non-scientific, unsupported, and perhaps unprovable hunch is that the divorce rate among couples who are married in barns, corrals, vegetable gardens, or orchards is far lower than that of couples married in churches. Of course, you’d have to control for some other factors if you were a scientist, but I’ll just stick with my hunch.

    I can’t remember if I told you about a family wedding outside of Tulsa. It took place in an event center that looked much like this setting. There’s was room for more of a procession, but instead of flower girls, there were flower boys, and they shot flowers out of potato guns as they were coming down the aisle. And, yes: the bride was wearing boots.

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    1. I really love the non-traditional weddings. To me they seem more personal and entertaining. I’d put money on your hunch, Linda. The folks in this crowd were good people who were lifelong friends and loving family. We were all game to venture out into a storm and roll with whatever the evening dealt us. “Country folks can survive” as Hank Williams, Jr. sings.

      Potato guns? Now that’s a new concept! Ha ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic. The venue looked beautiful and you’ve written so warmly about it I could really picture how nice it must have been. Very happy for everyone. xx

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