The warm embrace of love and gratitude
Over the weekend, I was delighted to attend the wedding of one of my dearest friends, someone I’ve known for over a decade. My companion and I made the long drive from Portland down through the Northern Redwoods of California and back into Oregon to finally arrive at our destination on Saturday. The wedding took place the following day on a beautiful property owned by the bride’s parents in the mountains above the coastal town of Brookings.
When we arrived late that afternoon, the landscape was covered in a thick layer of fog. The trees towered above us, and swayed gently in the light breeze and we could hear the calls of ravens in the distance.
A few of the guests had already arrived and were setting up camp in a large field beside the barn. I chose a spot near the treeline of the property, close to a few other tents. As we set up camp, I introduced myself to other family and friends of the betrothed. I was struck by the welcoming and kind hearted nature of all who came to greet me. I felt at home immediately.
As the sun set on that first evening in the woods, I thought about the upcoming ceremony and how touched I was to be the Maid of Honour. That night was a late one, spent in uproarious celebration of the binding to come. Good food, and better company was all around, the air was chilled by the approaching winter but our hearts were filled with warmth. When I finally retired to my little tent, I could still hear the ringing sound of friends laughing.
I awoke the next day to the call of a red-tailed hawk in a tree above me. I looked outside and saw that the fog had given way to a glorious sunlit morning. Breakfast was made, shared, and consumed before preparations for the ceremony began. As Maid of Honour, I attended to the bridesmaids and the bride: makeup, attire, all the little details were taken care of. I am transgender so getting to truly feel like ‘one of the girls’ was immeasurably validating. As the ceremony drew closer, the hustle and bustle died down and those in attendance walked down a hill into the woods where the ceremony would take place.
Everything was perfect. The altar was made of scavenged wood and branches, on an archway above the altar was a log with the words “Fuck it” carved into it. To say the ceremony itself was beautiful would be a gross understatement. It was magical. I was touched by the love and support that was radiating from the bride and groom. Marriage is not something I have historically thought of fondly but this was so far from a traditional wedding, and it somehow felt stronger, more meaningful than those I’d been to in the past. We were here to celebrate a true connection with ritual, community and nature, in an old and sacred forest. I was in awe and filled with gratitude for being present and able to bear witness to this beautiful union.
After vows were said and tears were shed, friends embraced and new bonds placed, it was time for revelry! And revel we did, far past sundown and well into the early morning hours. Dancing to 80s music, sharing stories both joyous and grieving. All manner of wishes were showered upon the newlyweds: For their lives to be filled with love and wonder, adventure and artistic creation.
My soul swelled with gratitude that night. Gratitude to get to be and feel like myself. Gratitude to be surrounded by friends, old and new. Gratitude to be comfortable and at peace. My mind drifted to many strange and wonderful places in those chilled misty mountains. I thought about our planet, and all the people who live on it, the dark and troubling times we’re living in, and how at the end of the day we all want the same things: to feel loved, to feel connected, to help and support each other, to celebrate our lives together, to be part of something greater.
I will never forget the bonds that formed there in that special and secluded place, where love won, hope surrounded us, and gratitude filled our hearts.