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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ammi Midstokke: Big things, little things, and perspective

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about off-the-grid living. (The Spokesman-Review)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I lost a friend to suicide this week. It was the kind of shocking loss that leaves you confused and asking questions that may never be answered. It was the kind of loss that rips through a community, where heartache gives rise to unity, compassion and grace.

It’s 13 degrees outside in the shade, and every time I pass under a tree, I feel the bitter cold of this fickle winter seep beneath my soggy layers of wool.

Why do I even run on days like this? I’m not cut out to be a runner.

Forty yards later I’m under the kavu-blue skies, sun glaring off the wind-swept snow drift.

This is a glorious afternoon! I will run forever!

Just like that, I’m as changing as the season.

What happens to us when we can no longer see that big things are small, and small things are big? Is this the fear that overwhelms us in our darkest moments? Do we forget that this, too, shall pass?

I throw a snowball for the brown dog. Ever happy, ever smelling the urine evidence of unmet friends, she chases it into the sunlight, bites the snow and bounces toward me, face white, canine mouth somehow grinning.

I would argue that happiness is made up of the many small experiences in a day that bring us joy or contentment. It is in that first sip of coffee, how my daughter sneaks under the covers with me, when the wind sings in the trees, when humming birds pause on a blossom, when friends make me laugh, when my frozen face is suddenly warmed again by the afternoon sun.

I like my Subaru, don’t get me wrong. Mostly it is a transportation device of clutter, medical references, markers, mud, and hair. Also, equipment for roughly seventeen alternative sports – which do make me happy.

It’s just a thing though. Things can be replaced. I’ve lost a few in my day. Cars, homes, a red bike I loved that got stolen.

Humans, memories, and experiences – they cannot be replaced. Even by the basic laws of economics, this makes them of unique value. It seems thus, we ought to value those things, however small, more than the big things. Cars, houses, debts, regrets.

I round a corner and watch the awkward, eager paws of Freya slide out on the ice as she crashes down. She leaps up high into the air, as if she too finds hilarity in her adolescent clumsiness. It makes me happy to watch her. It reminds me to be playful in my life, too.

Today is a dark day in a dark time. The overwhelming sadness cannot be ignored, but there is a peaceful acceptance of it out here on my run. The sun is setting in the west, the few clouds are lining with a bright silver.

I am not a superstitious girl, but the afternoon rays of sunlight seemed like a gentle reminder from beyond. Somewhere, someone has found peace within and wants us to know we have peace within us too. We must just remember the small things, and that many small things make for a wonderful life.

It is amazing how much joy I can find in the seemingly benign. Such as taking a hot shower in my own house for a change.

I pitter-patter around the last corner toward my car. Now I’m happy for the car, too. The whole drive home I think about how glorious that simple, infinite hot shower will feel on my chilled bones. How happy my warm and dry clothes will make me.

When the seemingly big things come and weigh us down, fill us with fear and impossibility, we must turn to the small ones. We might just find that the love and light there are the constants we need to go on.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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