GRATEFUL

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GRATEFUL

Full moon in Aries. Storm clouds moving fast across the sky. The creek roaring. At 8:00 in the morning, it is so dark and wet in the forest, we decide to try for a walk on the paths at the State Park.  We drive through rain and hail so fierce that it is, at times. a white out. Thunder and lightning overhead.  Still we think, somehow, it will change– if we can just get there.

As we walk the path along the river, the wind is so fierce and wild that the dogs take to “low in the grass.” Without a lot of body mass, I am bent over, pushing ahead, trying to keep my balance. Four legs, I think, would definitely be better than two. Once in the trees, it is not quite so bad.  We forge ahead, trying not to be intimidated by the thunder and lightning, the hail and pelting rain.  Finally, it dawns on me that the dogs are not enjoying this, and I am totally drenched.  We run for the car as the weather intensifies around us.

Back at the car, the cell phone is beeping loudly. Warning: “Tornado. Take cover immediately.”  Back on the highway, I am passed by the flashing lights and sirens of emergency vehicles.  I stop at the lumber store for propane and an extra flashlight.  I am greeted with “What are you doing here? A tornado just swept through Manzanita!”  Stunned, I realize we were walking on the edge…about a mile from where the funnel came inland.

Back home, I find out that another even more fierce storm is scheduled to hit the next day.  I live in the middle of a forest. When the wind blows, the trees dance.  I learned in the 2007 hurricane, just how shallow those trees are rooted.  I watched them out my windows, “walking” down the hillside toward me as they simply tipped over in clusters of two or three, like a river of trees.  Miraculously, they missed my house by 150 ft. but  that time of falling and cracking trees stays with me. Since then, I have a fear when the trees dance.

The next day, I gather what I need to be without electricity and running water—candles, propane, pans of water…  Then I sit with my fear. I pray to the force of Wind– Vayu:  “Brother Wind, who dances through the trees, Brother Wind touch us lightly—touch us lightly with your breath…“  By three o’clock it is ominously dark and the trees begin to sway.  “Here it comes,” I think. Gusts, like wind fingers, play in the trees and for several hours they dance, maybe to the tune of 50 mph.  Then it is very still.  Can it possibly be over?

The next day, there is puzzlement about what happened to the storm. Some people are upset with the weather service for scaring the shit out of them. The weather service is upset with the people because they are doing their best to warn them and wind storms are notoriously unpredictable. Others simply say, “We dodged a bullet!” I don’t know what happened either, but I, too, feel like we dodged a bullet– and I am incredibly grateful.

There is much damage but no injuries in the small town of Manzanita where the tornado traveled through a strip about a mile long and 700 ft wide, breaking trees, battering buildings. But just across the street or just next door remains untouched.  People are coming together, as small towns do, helping each other–starting emergency funds for those in need and cleanup of the streets and shops.  They say 1/3 of the old growth trees in the town are gone and there are rumors of tree plantings being organized.  Crews of volunteers rescue merchandise from ruined shops. Stores and restaurants that remain intact are serving free coffee and hot food to those without power and to the cleanup crews.   It is beautiful to see the acts of kindness and generosity spring up around darkness and loss.  As one shop keeper puts it: “If something bad is going to happen to you, you’re lucky if it happens in Manzanita.” I like to think the world is as we create it.

Today, we again walk the path at the State Park . Sticks and trees from the river have been tossed around and a section of the path by the river is missing—again.  The big Sand Dune has large bites taken out of its base, but the river is silvery and calm.  Mist floats across the hills in the distance.  A flock of ravens scold the dogs for intruding on their feeding grounds, and fly to the low hanging braches where they hunch and ruffle their feathers, growing menacing and large. “Move on…we are the clean up crew here…” We walk on. Grateful to live in a place where nature is alive;  grateful to have weathered the storm. Grateful to live in a world where people help each other with acts of kindness.

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