62: Through Storm and Flood

62: Through Storm and Flood

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Through Storm and Flood

Two lovers in the rain have no need of an umbrella.

~Japanese Proverb

“Let’s have the wedding here — in our woods!” Those were the words that my bride-to-be spoke to me the day after I proposed to her — and the words that echoed in my mind as I stood in those very same woods months later, the day after Hurricane Isabel tore through our state, leaving us with a 160-year-old oak tree lying on the ground right through the center of the area we were preparing for the wedding.

We planned to be married on the eve of midsummer 2004, in the most beautiful place we could think of: beside the brook that meanders through the forest that surrounds our Virginia home, among the beech and oak trees that have stood there for generations. Any large wedding requires months of preparation, but to hold such a thing at home requires even more! So in the summer of 2003, we began preparing the site: building a deck to be the dance floor, building over thirty terraced steps into the hillside for our elderly guests to walk down, planting flowers, and clearing brush from the place where our friends and family would sit during the ceremony.

And now facing this: the fallen trunk of a beautiful tree, nearly three feet in diameter, lying across, through, and on top of the space we were preparing.

A wedding party is made up of dear friends who are willing to help with whatever needs to be done in order for the wedding to come together. So I called my best man. “Brian, come on over. Bring a chainsaw.” And he came, and the rest of our friends came, and with chainsaws and axes and brute strength, they helped us clear away the bones of the fallen giant, leaving behind a single piece: a 400-pound section of trunk to use as the altar for the ceremony, as a way of honoring the beautiful tree that we had lost.

In the months that followed, we worked harder than we’d ever worked before. After we removed the tree, we repaired the damage that the new deck had suffered when the tree fell, removed the waterlogged debris from the brook, and finished the stairway down the hill. Through it all, we grew closer, knowing that all of the preparations were for a single day, but that the results of the preparations would be something we could enjoy together for years to come.

One week before the big day, we could finally breathe! Everything was done, ordered, prepared, scheduled, and ready to go. With one exception: the weather. We had no rain contingency for our eighty-five guests, and no room in our home for that many people if the rain came.

So we stood on our deck together, my bride-to-be and me, and spoke to the sky above us, requesting good weather for the day of the ceremony. “You can rain as much as you want,” my lady said, “up until two days before the wedding. But we’d appreciate it if it didn’t rain after that.”

And the weather listened. Very closely, as it turned out. Two days before the wedding, the clouds opened up, and it rained like we had never seen. Our quiet little brook, usually only a few inches deep and three feet wide, began to rise toward the edge of its banks. There was nothing to be done but watch in awe. Those of us who were gathered at the house all went down to the deck we’d built, to stand in the rain and marvel at the power of nature. The water rose to the edge of the bank… then kept rising. And rising. Before long, the water was washing at the feet of the deck. The place where the guests were to sit, thirty feet from the bank, was inundated. The far side of the bank was even worse off — our three-foot-wide brook had turned into a 130-foot-wide torrent, so forceful that it carried whole tree trunks downstream.

“Look!” one of our friends pointed. The huge log that we had placed as the wedding altar was washing away as well.

“Come on,” I said, and the groomsmen and I mounted an expedition into the rushing water to rescue the altar and haul it to higher ground.

Soon after, the rain stopped, and the waters receded, carrying with them the last remnants of the mulch we’d spread for our guests to walk on.

But the weather kept its word; there was no rain after that. We spread more mulch the next day, and set the altar back in its place. The day of the wedding dawned clear and bright.

Then, on the eve of midsummer, my beautiful bride walked down the hill on her father’s arm, wearing a silver toe-ring borrowed from a bridesmaid, and bright cerulean toenail polish as her “something blue,” barefoot so that she could feel the earth beneath her. She met me beside our oaken altar, and we were hand-fasted there, our hands bound together with ribbon in accordance with ancient tradition.

Through storm and flood we built the natural temple where we were to be married; through storm and flood was it cleansed; through storm and flood we found out just how close our closest friends were and still are.

Through storm and flood we learned that there is nothing that we cannot stand and face together.

~Cael Jacobs

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