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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ammi Midstokke: What we seek and find in the Great Outdoors

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’m leaving,” I say. My person is staring at me with a face that looks something like a hybrid of a sad Labrador puppy and a lumberjack who lost his saw. He knows me well enough to understand that I say what I mean and I do what I say.

The only exception to this universal rule is cookie consumption. I never eat just one, unless it has the approximate geographical area of Louisiana. Before the Purchase.

I’m holding a pair of wool socks in one hand and a wind shell in the other. Either I need to leave the house or I need a state-sized cookie.

Some days I am a literal life-saving hero merely by going on a hike. I am certain that I spare my family carnage, blood and lifelong trauma just by going outside. On this particular day, I was passing over the parenting baton with a fierce look of “these are your kids now” while I warmed up my GPS. It’s the kind of look that inspires a wide berth in the kitchen and gift certificates to the spa.

I muttered like some madwoman under my breath as I shoved my feet into cold shoes. I was trying to be really mad, making my best angry scowl and everything, but the Brown Dog was bouncing around me as if she was auditioning for the circus. As dog owners can attest, a dog knows exactly which shoes are for which activities. Adventure was afoot.

The air hit my face with a cool greeting, winter breeze waking me from those late-afternoon fantasies of napping. I thought I could calculate how many feet of elevation increase correspond to a blood pressure decrease. The voices in my head were too many to isolate. There were Lego wars, ex-husband commentary, the fact that I fold all of the laundry, and dusty old memories that somehow suddenly seem pertinent to my rage.

The female brain is an impressive observer of the environment. There is plenty of evolution theory about this potentially being part of our defense systems raising the young. It also explains my noodle brain and the ability to recall the obsolete minutia of a month’s-old conversation that suddenly now seems like an affront to my entire person, a threat to my environment.

Which I just ran away from, quite literally.

As my math skills while powering up snow-covered hills are not particularly developed (not that they are any other time), I was forced to ask myself what I was running away from. Highly motivated by food, it was inevitable that I’d head home before the next snack time. There was banana bread. Whatever I thought I was escaping was going to be there when I got back. In fact, it was probably eat my snacks right this minute.

As I marched with stubborn determination up the mountain, it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually running from anything, but rather running to something I needed. Peace of mind and a moment of silence and the space to unravel the yarn ball of perimenopausal psychosis rolling around my head.

It wasn’t that I needed to get away as much as I needed to figure out how to be present because that is important to me, even when negotiating Lego sharing. The longer I walked, the more calm my insides became. I would even argue that I became reasonable along the way.

By the time I returned home, the house was as calm and quiet as the weather outside. Children had reconciled. Voices were soft and conversation tender. And it felt good to come home as a whole version of myself and not the lunatic bride of Mr. Hyde.

If going outside is an escape, it’s merely an escape to oneself.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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