Wild ash and a huggable dog on a perfect day
Sometimes it happens that our plans, which we have long and lovingly built, crumble in an instant.
Do we need to despair and give up? Not a chance! We start building new plans and, when we realise them, we often see that the results are better than we could have imagined. Our destiny leads us to the right road if we don’t give up.
When I was planning my wedding with Bill, I was passionately dreaming that it would take place in Bermuda on the ocean, in a small cove where Bill and I had our first date.
I saw myself barefoot, with my light-blue summer dress fluttering in the wind. I would be holding a bouquet of white roses, and a violinist would play exquisitely as our relatives and closest friends watched amid tears and smiles. I would be holding hands with Bill, softly saying “yes, I do” before a glorious sunset over the turquoise sea. Before us lies our happy life!
It was such a romantic and ideal picture — as in the last frames of a movie romance when the camera slowly pans from the faces of the happy newlyweds to the sun sinking into the deep red ocean.
Life turned out quite differently. Our wedding took place thousands of kilometres from Bermuda, in the tiny American town of Ely, Minnesota, which is a speck in the vast coniferous forests on the very border of North America’s largest wilderness, The Boundary Waters. With its thousands of crystal clear lakes alive with deer, bears and wolves, and nights spent under the green and silver shimmer of the Northern Lights, the Ely area attracts outdoorsmen and backpackers from all over the world.
Time has not touched the tiny town of Ely (population 3,430) and you feel as if it stopped in, maybe …. 1956. There are no McDonald’s, no Starbucks. There are cozy coffee houses, where locals hang their mugs on the wall, a steakhouse or two, small shops selling wilderness gear, and lots of canoe rentals. For this is the “town at the end of the road”, the departure point for the greatest canoe trips in the world. Outboard motors are forbidden.
Nearby begins a silent mosaic of pristine waterways, islands and forests stretching north over a thousand miles to Hudson’s Bay and the rugged tundra of the Arctic Circle. Ely is the gateway and one of the few American towns that has managed to preserve its charm and defend its character. You leave from here, you come back to here. In between, you wander one of the last, immense and unspoilt wildernesses on the planet. What happened to my violinist?
For some personal reasons we decided not to wait for our return to Bermuda. Our wedding day in Ely on August 25 was brisk and sunny. At our cabin on the lake, I put on a modest white dress, and Bill an elegant blue sports coat. We took our boat from the remote island where we live in the summer to the mainland.
On the ten-mile road to Ely, we stopped at the home of our witnesses, Bill’s cousin Sharon and her husband, Jeff. They looked at me and exclaimed, “where are the flowers?” We laughed.
“Where would we find flowers in the boreal forest?” She went to the flower bed and gathered a simple bouquet.
We were all on the way to the house of a local lawyer for our ceremony. Suddenly, I saw on the side of the road a beautiful wild ash tree dense with bright red berry clusters.
“This was my papa’s favourite tree!” I remembered this tree my father planted in front of our summer house in Siberia. He loved how this small cutting grew into red splendour.
“I must marry holding a bouquet of wild ash in memory of my father. It would be a wonderful sign,” I thought happily. We stopped and I walked to the edge of the forest.
I could never imagine that at my wedding I would have this extravagant bouquet of wild ashes. The best one in my life.
When we entered the local lawyer’s small and cozy house, the first to greet us was his affectionate Labrador, Leo, all happy, shining eyes and wagging tail.
He barked hello and licked us with sincere and irrepressible joy and love. We began to laugh, hugging and petting him. My 11-year-old stepdaughter, Ava, was in heaven. His happiness was so sincere and warm that it was impossible not to smile.
“Could he attend our ceremony?” I asked the pastor. “Of course,” he answered in surprise. “Today is your day.”
Bill, Ava and I stood in front of the fireplace and listened to the lovely wedding vows.
The dog, Leo, understanding the solemnity of the moment, lay quietly at our feet. Bill and I turned to each other. Looking into each other’s eyes we said our vows and kissed. At that moment, Ava sang in her angelic voice a song from The Sound of Music.
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things …”
Ava sang the song perfectly, full of quiet reverence and confidence.
At that moment I thought, “Thank you, Universe, that we were married right here, in the town where Bill has come since he was born, where we started building our relationship five years ago on my first visit, this true and simple place where we are always so happy.”
Fate is unpredictable, but do not be afraid of an unexpected or abrupt turn. Look closer and you may find a tree of wild ash with red clusters, a cheerful dog you can hug, or the sweet melody of your child’s special song.
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind