Longer story. Shorter point.
J texted at 9. "Can you call when you get this?"
It had been raining hard. But from my perch, it just seemed like it always does- the big atmospheric river moving across the farms and skating past the ridges- the trees dancing in half circles. Big, but not scary- perhaps cozy, even. I wasn't scared. No. Not at all.
I knew the river was going to crest since earlier that day and had planned on staying put- I had everything I needed, and likely, ever wanted. And though the river was low, and I was high, I knew about the creeks. They were mostly dry and parched for years now- even a big rain would swell it to below historic lines. But this influx of water - a winter's worth in just 48 hours, could make them full again.
And it did.
I left home immediately when I got the text. I knew it was time to kick in to action, and I was kicking everyone for not calling me earlier when it would be safer. How would we know, though? He stayed for the animals. I don't blame him. They are his family, and three of them are dear hearts. The other one is a scary cat- the kind that snarls at you when you walk in, ears pinned, teeth glaring. Of course, she does not display that to her parents- an American classic.
When I drove down the hill, I could feel a heaviness- an exponential humidity. I drove through a few inches of water, and honked the horn outside his house. It was darker than I could have imagined- likely a new moon. A time to set intentions, and there was only one here- get him the fuck out of that storm.
He walked to the car with a carrier in one hand, the pup in the other, over knee deep in water. I knew the floor of his house would be screwed- it's one of these compound properties with miscelaneous housing- a trailer here, a barn there- a stick house, and a pre-fab. My heart sank. The rain pounded from every direction. I had only seen this on the news. "I'm going to get the other two." He put the pup on the passenger seat. I know the pup well- he's a good friend, and we spend a lot of welcome time together. I recall being happy to see him, and he looked very worried.
J came back with another bin- the kind you store clothes in- there was another cat in there, also crying. Now wet to his waste, he said to me "I need to get the other meatball, and I need to find her first. It's going to take me a minute."
I know this moment- it's in every tale of what not to do when there is a natural disaster- to risk yourself more than necessary. But, the meatball is necessary. Ten minutes later, he came to the truck, bloodied and carrying a bin. He was soaked up to his chest. It had only been maybe 15 minutes total. The creek had crested. Which means it also crested on the road.
I turned around, everyone in the car, stunned, animals meowing, the pup silent. I began to drive. The water had gotten to the road. There's only one way in and one way out, and we only had an 1/8th of a mile to drive. A four wheeler, taller than my truck, was stalling in front of us, not moving. I beeped. He wouldn't go.
I decided to pass on the creek side. I gunned it slowly. You could feel the engine starting to pull downward, fighting the water. The water went over the wheels, maybe the hood, too. "We are almost there, we are almost there." I had one hand on the wheel and maybe one hand on his back. Or maybe that was before. But it was dark, and hard to see. And the rain. And the water over the hood. We pushed on.
200 feet of terror. And not even the terror that I might feel with Harvey, or Sonia, or whomever is the current violent femme fountain of the moment, somewhere across anywhere on this land. We got through, I maintained the chugging speed, and we went up the mountain to my place.
I haven't been the same since. But actually, since before that. Since my brother called me and said "Is your house ok?" That was two years ago - not even - when I flew into Santa Rosa and all the smoke circled above, a vapor field we had to get through.
I spent time with J then, too. The smoke had gone into the valley where the creek is, and just sat there for days and days.
Then there was this past autumn, when I returned from a big journey, and I started to get texts "Love, don't come home. It's not worth it." And therein, Paradise burned. Burned everywhere, and the vapor field settled over everywhere. They say you could see it from space.
And there I was. We all were. And we were terribly scared, not to mention totally just stunned. I went to Berkeley with L for a talk about food, and there were hungry people outside, with no place to go. Huddled, in the vapor field. The vapor of all the things we've made, all the ways we've construed and made a chemistry set out of our environment. Boom. Explosion. And another propane tank blows up. And the streets are filled with heroes and the big celebration trucks and we honk, and it's just all too familiar now.
We are eating our creations, in their cremation. Literally. And in that, where is the karma? Has it burned? Or, does it cycle and cycle and cycle again, as designed and intended?
So... where to from here? I wrote over and over again this morning- tapassatyatapassatya.
The impetus of truthfulness, with the heat of action.