Back This Hitch Up Into the Water

img_2316Here I am. A little wet and a lot exhausted, and a lot humbled by my bad, bad attitude.

We didn’t have electricity for three days, and no water for four. You can bet our kitchen stank, stunk, and stinked to high heaven. After all the food in the fridge rotted, and rotted food-water leaked all over the floor, we finally decided to go ahead and clean out the fridge even though we still had no water. Boy, was that something. After it took both Grace and I together, using all the strength we could muster while trying not to breathe through our noses, to lug that awful garbage out to end of the driveway (sometimes I really regret not having sons), we still had all the dirty dishes that had held all that rotted food all over our counter that we couldn’t rinse out. We also had all the dishes from the previous three days that we had been unable to wash.

All that stinkiness sat there for what seemed like an eternity before our property owners were able to find the leak in our well, caused by trees falling and their roots wreaking havoc on the underground world. They repaired it and refilled the tank and I tell you I have never loved water so much. Nor have I ever loved more the people who know how to find and fix things in places like underground worlds. I might even go so far as to show my appreciation by actually drinking water again, even though I’m always trying to stick it to the man by not drinking it. I don’t like when they say I have to drink it even though I’m not thirsty. But that’s another post for another day…

I think I reached my lowest point on the evening of the second day, as I drove to Trader Joe’s after the sun had set, looking for food that didn’t need to be prepared (or refrigerated) that I could take to the potluck at church the next day. I was in such a deep funk. First of all, not only was our house freezing beyond belief and all our firewood wet, but our house was also very nearly inaccessible. All entrances and exits were blocked by either police cars with spinning lights or a simple sign in the road that said “Road Closed.” Every time we tried to drive anywhere was a gamble. We’d drive around the “Road Closed” signs and hope for the best, often getting all the way to the end of the road, only to be turned back around and have to try another way. Once I got out, all I could do was look at all the houses that I drove past in the night with all their beautiful lights and all I could feel was jealousy. “Those people in those houses…. they don’t even KNOW what they have right now!” I grumbled in my heart. I think I might have hated the people in those houses with those beautiful lights. It was a seriously ugly, low point for me. And then I got home and cried because of the beauty of simple fire light, while sharing a simple meal of pizza and wine and Sprite with lovely people. What a fickle heart I have.


But eventually, power WAS restored. And when our road finally opened up and we could actually drive down it, we couldn’t believe what we saw. 20-30 trees had fallen across our little road, some were still dangling from live power lines. Crews had been working around the clock, cutting through a mess of trunks, branches and leaves to try to make a way through and bring life back to the living. By the way, have you ever smelled fresh-cut eucalyptus trees, wet with rain? I will never forget that amazing smell in the midst of such a disaster zone. It was like all my senses were awakened and the view was made even more poignant. Sometimes I’m awakened in this same way on Sunday mornings when I’m tired and maybe grumpy and always hungry and the prayers start to stick in my throat… and then the incense comes swinging down the aisles. I couldn’t escape it if I wanted, but why would I want to? It swings my direction, it swings the other direction, it swings over all of us, with large puffs of smoke, rising to heaven along with our prayers. It opens our senses and we turn toward the reading of the gospel and we listen to the words chanted, and we cross our bodies, mind, mouth and heart, and it’s all made so very poignant as we prepare ourselves for Holy Eucharist, and prepare ourselves to be made whole. Bit by bit, week by week. It’s a process for such a fickle-hearted person like me.


But now the sun is out and chainsaws have been the soundtrack of my work day today. I’m sitting here looking out my back window, watching the sun set through a clearing that wasn’t there before. I’m looking at seven newly cut trunks, just in my line of view from my couch, which has let in light that wasn’t there before. It’s no small feat, cutting these tall trees, I tell you. See those teeny, tiny guys, way up there in those trees? They went almost to the top and cut down all the branches, working their way down. Then they cut the bare trunks. That view right there…imagine seven of the trees gone now. I don’t know why cutting trees always makes me so sad. I don’t think I could possibly be the granddaughter of a forester. I’m way too sentimental about these things.

But on the other hand, do you see that grass? I mean, yeah, I know it’s like two feet tall but do you see that green? I would never have thought that green was a real-life color, but it is. Oh, it is. It is everywhere right now. It’s like we live in a fairy tale. A very rainy, muddy fairy tale.

In the midst of my funk last Saturday, my mom sent me videos she was finally getting around to uploading from Christmas. I tell you, I couldn’t stop smiling. I know this post is long and I know I have a fickle heart, and I know it makes no sense to put this video here in this post. But something about this night at my mom and dad’s last December in Dallas, surrounded by people that I love, just brings my heart gladness and now I’d like to share that gladness here. It was one of those impromptu music nights that somehow always go better than if we had planned it. Sadie and Grace singing (I think I joined in some on the chorus), Sadie and Josh on guitar, Robbie jumped up and started plunking out a piano part, and then the best part of the night was when Uncle Billy suddenly pulled out a harmonica that nobody even knew he had in his pocket. Perfect. It was perfect. Maybe the lyrics about untying all the cables and ropes and just floating are exactly what I needed to hear right now.

‘Til Kingdom Come

We’ve been getting battered by wind and rain and trees, but especially trees. Elisha just walked in the door, soaking wet like a sponge, his body pouring water, oozing all the way from the top of his hair, running straight down his face, down to the bottom of his socks and out his shoes, creating a growing puddle as he stood in the entry-way to Callie and Jeremy’s apartment, telling us how bad it is out there. He was at his parents house, helping them with downed trees and on his way here, he passed at least 50 more trees across the roads and kept having to turn around.

I’ve been working at Callie and Jeremy’s all day since the power went off early this morning at our house, and you know, the work MUST go on. A few large eucalyptus trees fell smack dab on our neighbor’s house before I left, destroying completely her beautiful, glass paneled art studio. The five hundred or so remaining eucalyptuses on our property were dancing violently in the 40 mph winds, alternately waving their mighty branches to the storm-blackened skies, and bending down deep to the muddy, sodden grounds, as if in some kind of plea with Mother Nature Herself and All Of Eternity to let them live. Just let them live and they will do whatever you want, including dancing in all their nakedness in the most vulnerable of ways. Grace and I ran for our lives to our car and got the heck outta dodge.

Jeremy also worked from home since he couldn’t get to his work due to flooding. Callie, Sadie and Grace sat at the kitchen table all afternoon coloring, while Jeremy and I sat here in the warm, lighted, wifi-enabled living room, working. The girls had an iPhone sitting in the middle of table, playing music, while they all hummed different parts. Some of the parts were part of the actual song, some were not, all sounded good and brought a fullness to both the music and my heart as I considered the many ways that I have been blessed. It was lovely background music while I worked. Ezra slept upstairs while the storm raged on and on out there. Coldplay and my daughters all sang together about waiting for you until kingdom come while the trees continued to fall outside our windows, all over kingdom come.

Elisha just left with Sadie and the little bean, that’s turning into a cantaloupe that will soon be a basketball inside her. They are going to attempt to get home, despite all reports that the canyon they live in is completely inaccessible. Sadie didn’t want him to go alone, since there’s no cell signal out there and she’ll never hear from him if he gets stuck. So, off they went to get stuck together. Elisha’s last words were. “Goodbye. If you don’t hear from us again, you know where to look…. under the trees.” And with that, the soaking wet, dripping, grinning son-in-law was off with my daughter and unborn grandbaby.

Chris just walked in the door, looking slightly less wet than Elisha, but infinitely more beaten down. He’d been waiting at home to make sure the house was okay, and waiting for the power to come back on. It didn’t. And now we’re out of water. And a tree fell on our garage. We were supposed to have dinner with friends tonight, who also have no power and live on a road that’s blocked by fallen trees, so we have postponed it for a night that is a little less wet and windy.

This is the conversation that just happened:

Grace: “So what are you guys going to do tonight then?”

Chris: (I didn’t look up from my computer, but I heard complete silence)

Grace: “Dad, that makes no sense… you can’t up your butt and around the corner on a Friday night.”

So that’s a little bit of what the mood is like around here.

Oh yeah, and then Ezra woke up. And we all smiled and laughed and smiled and laughed some more. I’d definitely wait for these people until kingdom come.

Grandpa and Ezra

One Saturday Morning

I roll out of bed at the late, luxurious hour of 7:10am. I make coffee, I dunk Trader Joe’s chocolate chip dunkers in it and suck them down while waiting for my financial software to download all the past week’s transactions. I do a preliminary look at the depressing state of affairs, then shut the computer and take Grace to work.

After dropping her at the burrito making place, I leave her in the empty parking lot, knocking on the locked door and I turn west toward the beach.

I park and walk across the parking lot until it turns to soft sand, packed a little harder than usual due to recent rains, and I make my way to the edge of the water. I walk, with the other walkers. All of us bundled in our hoodies, protected from the wind while we watch the sun begin to burn off the fog. I walk, with the happiest dogs in the world, most of them let free from their leashes even though signs are posted clearly prohibiting such an egregious crime. I’m glad for the dogs and their freedom and their happiness.

I walk, with my ear buds in, which both blocks the cold wind from my sensitive ear canal that knew too many ear infections as a child, and also delivers beautiful sounds and thought-provoking words into my head and my heart while I walk.

I walk, I listen, I watch the other walkers, I watch the dogs roaming free, I watch the birds soaring even freer, I watch the fog slowly rolling back to where it came from, way out there in its lair in the deep Pacific, revealing the green hills and homes that cover them. I imagine the people living in those homes, filling their coffee cups, making their way to their balconies to watch the fog roll back while I walk beneath it. I sense a presence coming up behind me and am suddenly engulfed in teenage boys, in matching sweatshirts and bare feet, running together on the beach. They part and run on either side of me, passing me quietly and coming back together as a pack once they have safely passed me, running on. Where do they run to? What are they running from? Do their longings run as deep as mine? Does the running help to break up the longings and bring clarity to their mind? I half want to try it, but I more than half don’t. I walk on, listening, watching, feeling, always keeping an eye on the ever changing waves coming in and out, in and out, sometimes pushing me up farther into the softer sand, sometimes tempting me to come join them as they suck themselves back out, preparing for the next burst of power while they roll on and on and on and on. Ever changing, never changing, making all things new, keeping all things the same.

I climb the soft dune and I sit, letting my breath come back to normal. I sit until the moisture in the air has become so thick, that my hair has puffed to twice its normal size and I can’t run my fingers through it. I sit until the next song is gone and it takes most of the longing with it. I stand and turn toward the parking lot and the little green car that will take me home where my computer and an unfinished budget await.