Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Universe Answers "Yes"

There are still brilliant leaves clinging to some of the trees. In the morning, and late at night, the fog comes up from the river, and everything is wrapped in stillness, darkness, waiting.

It is colder. I can see my breath as I walk with the dogs morning and night. My brother in North Dakota would laugh at my version of "colder" for it is barely at frost level. But the dampness gets into the bones, and for those who must sleep out the time of risk is here. And when the rains drive through the branches of the firs and redwoods, and the ground becomes dense, soft, soaked, the fragile ones, the ones out of doors, the ones who struggle with their own demons and darkness, suffer a lot.

Some years we have had deaths, deaths simply from--cold, and perhaps lack of care. For months this year some of us who notice such things have been meeting, scheming, contacting agencies, looking at programs, thinking--oh, maybe just an emergency shelter? Maybe just when it does snow? Maybe when the highway closes? Is it so much to ask? We are still talking and scheming.

But I get impatient, and though I sit on a board of directors and have learned a lot of niceties of connection and lobbying, I am not comfortable waiting. That's why, while we are figuring out ways to feed people, I make sandwiches or serve soup as an odd bookstore special. And that's why I put out a call through our local radio for warm sweaters, old, clean blankets and sleeping bags, wooly socks, even with holes, even mis matched.

And yes, blankets came in, and bags of warm things, along with oddments (I always wonder at people who manage to believe that prom dresses from the 80's keep folks really warm, and I try hard not to blame the ones who bring true rags, often full of...unsavory substances and stains. Surely they didn't realize?). Over the past weeks dozens of blankets have passed through my hands and out to people sleeping out, or as good as sleeping out--sleeping in cars, in shacks. It's not enough, but it is a little.

And then one of my old bookstore customers (he loves philosophy books most of all) dropped by. "Heard your need" he said, "I want to help". I told him I'd gratefully accept anything. And then he began unloading the fine new sleeping bags, still in their packaging. And then he brought in the dome tents, and the big three room tent, and the waterproofing. Over the last week he has been by three times. Today, as he unloaded another set of bags and small tents, he said he was heading south for a few days, but he'd be back. And he'd bring more.

I thanked him. He said "well, I don't sleep well at night--but at least I'll sleep a little better knowing I've been of help. I've had a checkered life, you know, and lots I could regret. This helps".

I asked if he could sit and talk just a moment, and though he was darting off again he paused, and told me about how he'd died two decades back. He'd been in cardiac arrest for two hours, he said, until he was slammed back to his body. Unfinished business, he said.

He said "you know--no matter what else is going on--all the striving, all the pretense, all the pain you suffer--only one thing is real and only one thing matters, and that is love. It's love that the whole thing rests on. Just love."

I said I'd been told that by others, and certainly believed it myself, and we shared our death stories--like me, he's helped several dear ones in that transition.

One thing sticks in my mind though--even beyond the message of love and all. He said "on the other side--they have quite a sense of humor". I looked at him and laughed. "I'm really glad to hear that--I never want to be anywhere where I can't laugh." And he was off again.

The big tent went out later this evening to a young couple who have been camping at the ridgetop, hoping their luck will shift at last this year. She's pregnant with her first child, and worried; he's just gotten a job and hoping he can save a bit of money.

Me, right now I'm hoping I can get the tents out to those who need them before tomorrow's storm hits. I hope to hike out to some of the camps before the gale winds have started. Meanwhile, I feel so pleased to have so very much, to be in contact with a universe that seems to say "yes" rather quickly, and even with a sense of humor.