Its been storming hard here for weeks, they’re starting to call it the 100 year flood…maybe. The hillsides, sometimes barren from drought or fire, seem surprised by the whipping deluge. Dozens of formerly sane slopes throughout the county have fled their high perches for ravines and roads below. Eucalyptus, shallow rooted in their non-native California, tumble over at the least insult. Our country neighbors Damien and Michelle, about three miles away as the crow flies, counted our Australian invaders dropping at their place over the course of an hour , “one, two, … six, seven.” And then a few days later down on the main road below, “fourteen, fifteen…”
A hulking Euc on our land split right down the middle – depositing half of itself politely between the truck and chicken coop, leaving the other half to stand naked and free (a true Californian despite its ancestry). When we cut it up to be split later, the wood was hard as stone but soaked through with water. Each small disk felt like moving a boulder, weighing maybe as much as three times heavier than dried wood of the same type. These trees are dying drunk.
Rivers, big rivers, will begin to crest for the first time in over 30 years tonight. Dozens of roads are closed, some indefinitely. A bridge that holds up a short stretch of highway 1 as it ribbons through Big Sur is slowly disintegrating. You probably know that bit of road, the one you’ve seen a thousand times in car commercials: a sunned chalk white strip floating above the Pacific hundreds of feet below, usually responsible for lofting a Lexus or Mercedes or something other than a reliable truck. The local news zooms in on the cracks spreading on the one pillar pegged to a hillside that’s turning into gravy. Those cracks get noticeably bigger each time they’re checked.
I know just how that feels.
Bad news started coming with the rain and it just didn’t stop. There are some storms you cannot prepare for, they change you forever, we’ve had more than one this season. There is nothing to be done about it. All of the news kicked up things in me I’d buried too long, like a mudslide that starts up when you think the worst is over. It was all really just a prelude for this shit-storm. You call in sick, feel sick, wander about and try to make the kids understand why you’re a little nutty without really telling them about the horrible this and the terrible that. Then, eventually, in a pause between the storms, you shake something off, or it shakes you off and you simply stand up, finally made of what the wind and rains didn’t take away.
Yes there’s time to clean up that mess later. I’ll get on that one, it will get worse if we wait. Let me change clothes and take a shower first. There were times I dug my toes into the soles of my boots, gripping to hold fast to my own spirit lest it be pulled aloft by the winds. In these storms the only things you can focus on are being with your family, hearing the rain, breathing deeply, hoping the next storm will not rock us all too badly. She and I held each other tight in the mud of our driveway for a long, long time.
Strangely none of this feels chaotic to me, it doesn’t feel like part of a divine plan either. It just feels like my life is getting dug in deeper, everything is showing its teeth without reservation. The kids are amazed at how their sure lives have been upended by storms that destroy roads and flick over trees, closing freeways, shattering homes and crushing cars. You go to sleep with everything in one place, and you awake to find everything somewhere totally new. Its as if nature pulled at Momma and Pappas poker hand giving you a peak, showing you what’s really going on all the time, how vulnerable we all are.
And then there was an explosion of light.
I didn’t think anything could wipe away the grief that had built up on us, then my wife’s life opened up like a brilliant sunflower. Perhaps it was fed by the storms, or every step she took this season. It was three or four in the morning, she had been up for hours, she had been awakened by something. We lay in bed next to each other sobbing at the power of her realizations as they filled the room, her body quaking with each release. Did all of those storms bundled up into the power of one great epiphany for this extraordinary person? This time when the hand tipped to show the cards I saw nothing but the most radiant light. My wife, the adult I cherish in the world, had unleashed the brilliance of her soul.
When your shoulders are bent that far with grief you think you’ll never stand right again, until a light shines bright enough to remake you. It’s her story, and I was only a witness, perhaps some day she’ll tell it. But there is something new in our lives, it sits at the very center of our family, a radiance put there by her. Its almost too much for me to look at, I’m still getting used to it, so is she, but it is there, a new center for all of us to attract to. We have all been changed.
I have experienced incredible healings, witnessed unexplainable miracles that have remade the boundaries of what is real, but none of that has changed me the way this has. These storms, their catastrophic powers, and the sudden shock of ecstatic rebirth has remade my understanding of life and miracles.
I’m done looking for miracles.
Love really is the daily magic that holds everything together. Nothing I’ve experienced in life stacks up to our ability to love each other. It’s apparent each time we remake our worlds renewing our lives, simply by loving each other deeply, actively, and genuinely. We love each other through our greatness, humbleness and grief. Sitting there with her, feeling everything exploding out of her, was like being immersed in a river of love that couldn’t stop rushing. It was natural and supernatural all at once, just like these storms appear to our kids. I was baptized by her awakening waters, and like a successful baptism, I emerged anew.
Our daughters name is Truly, we call her True for short. One of the many nicknames I have for her (I could fill an encyclopedia) is True-Power. I’ve never told her what that means, I’ve really never even told me what that means. This is what it means now: that the chief, true power in life is love. Of course she always knew that, she’s always been so full of the good stuff.
I’m taking a sick day at home with the kids (we are all really sick with colds on top of everything else). I insisted we tromp outside for some rare sunshine and warm breezes before the next system rolls in. I stopped to take in the state of our mud room (a place to put on coats, take off shoes and knock the mud off yourself), its looking really tired. Its always the last and most daunting cleaning job (perhaps second only to doing the dishes!) I don’t mind the funk of it right now, I know we’ll get to it when there is time, and for now it holds the recorded moments of each storm this season. Its like someone painted it with grief and love and tragedy, rubbing all of the colors together. There’s time to sort it all out.
Now I find myself grieving all of those I have lost, those who I mourn perennially, in a different way. I know now it’s enough to give their sweet lives up to the big storms that took them, and to send my love after them. I can mourn the worst storms and let them go. It’s enough to let spirit hold them and just be here with the ones I love, riding out the what comes next as best we can.
I don’t always have to pick up all of the pieces, its OK to let some drift away, because love will still be there in the end, after the storms pass.