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.


Anonymous marly said...

So there is a wild alternate world of demons and devils and loneliness, holed up in the hills and forests--or anywhere. And you add to it that bit of civilization, seeding it with care and order.

Glad that you have not succumbed to either bears or devils, but are equipped to meet either...

5:37 AM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Beautiful post, well-written and full of The Real Deal, as always.

Highly random on my part, but...maybe I can do something to help, even from far away.

Email me at

and let's see...

5:46 AM, December 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been silenced by a simple thought so beautiful, last time was an old two-toned robed heretic, every time i wanted to but the silence disarmed me again, and when you really want to be disarmed its such a relief yet still discombulating. it's only because I am so burnt out that i hide behind dog faced cynicism. like all humanity I cry out for hope. Your story reminds me of the unitedstatesian newspaper leader which defended the existence of santa claus only a seven year old had the sense to ask the real question well does he really exist. First paragraph reminded of John 1 you capture it better than any of that it's a neoplatonic thesis crap. I pray with the quakers or remain silent while occasionally they shuffle, that's I can't believe its real Xtianity to those of you who equally despise your southern baptist children, well who knows they don't talk that much i settle for that.

Then you reiterate the gospel of Luke and it came it pass. So naif so beautiful. And what saves your obscene charity, a sense of humour. You aren't some self-indulgent poet tormented soul, onomatopoeia and the whole discontinuity with the unsynthesized manifold off pat thing.

You follow the New Jerusalem bible translation more accurate so with notes because its upsets the faithful, of course there was room in the Inn, but there was no place to put the baby in the tent, thank god for mothercare eh. I don't need to ask.

And you haven't forgotten the demons and darkness, the bleak mid-winter, otherwise they turn into decrepit old witches like me who come back to haunt the baby when it is more grown.

It used to fuck me off more when I was a child it was just you and the evil empire and then one night the evil empire disappeared and you betrayed all the hope of my childhood. Time to grow up then and acknowledge our own demons and angels and that a yes means nothing if you never say no.

Boom boom!

1:08 AM, December 10, 2006  
Blogger David said...

I wonder if Arnold is aware that homeless people are freezing to death in the mountains of northern California?

Jarvenpa, as always, you amaze me with your caring toward people in need! That guy bringing you all the tents is really something else too! It sounds like he may have undergone a personal transformation after his near death experience. Perhaps he became more generous after it happened. Your efforts may actually save some lives this winter. Maybe I need to find a way to be more helpful than just putting some spare cash into the Salvation Army bucket. I did write to my Senators recently about Iraq. I'm not sure if it will really help, but it was something I just had to do!

10:16 PM, December 11, 2006  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

You seem to attract some interesting people. Seems like he's trying to get that unfinished business in line. Your community is so luckly to have you in their midst. The way you connect with people, each so differently yet on such a private level, is an extraordinary thing.

10:36 PM, December 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

modom, taken aback, it's when in a drunken rage to take a swipe at an unruly bounder swivelling several times only managing to stop yourself to check how on earth could anyone move so fast then the slow shock of he didn't move at all and that uniform it's not black at all its ver ver dark blue, to the charge of manic flight on the advice of counsel no comment, as for the difference between in line and on line, in a gentler kindlier age one might not pull you up, up you pull, but in these days of prophylactic mechanical sifting programmes i urge you to be more careful with your prepositions. For it has long been known by unitedstatesian security forces that arabs intent on violence upon the state have no contextual sensitivity in their use of prepositions. And for a woman so recently deprived of her camry one would not wish you to be deprived of the rights of air travel and frankly inappropriate use of prepositions would do it, no one gets promoted for being undercautious. I used to favour double cr but my punctuation increases only under extreme stress. Baby jesus and the poor maybe all very well, I would be dishonest, I would be lying at a core level of being if i did not admit to caring more about the loss of your camry, I am assuming a camry is something of a lacey nature, possibly red, if not with fringes than at least a tassle and it was discovered by the mediaeval french. One cannot be moved at your plight. I am aware that the suffering of north californians in general has logical precedence. But it is the word camry that commands my compassion. If I knew any woman who had just lost her camry I'd go out shopping and get her a new one toute de suite.

Then she'd drive off and text me a thank you I never learn.

3:59 AM, December 20, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Marly, lori, livewire, david, and anonymous--thank you for your thoughts and more.
anon, I think you are mixing livewire and me into one interesting juxtaposition; sorry, never had a camry.

For now almost everyone in the hills has some form of small shelter, though the last nights have been rough--wind and freezing rain. I had to call ambulances this morning on behalf of two of my street friends.

My friend who has brought so much turns out--how could I not have guessed--to be an artist. He carves birds of bits of wood.

Sunlight today for a moment, just as the solstice came, which was around 4:22 Pacific time, I think. I have been somewhat overwhelmed by the great need in this area, but so brightened by the surprising responses.

And the moments of light.

11:45 PM, December 21, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Happy Holidays Jarvenpa! :)

1:52 PM, December 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy new year...

12:00 PM, December 27, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

Very sweet of you! such people with hearts are becoming rarer & rarer! Yet agn organizations are corrupt n one can't be sure the things he intends to hand to the ones in need, reach them instead of a fancy shop, selling them for a good price!! You are an angel.

11:25 PM, December 27, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

happy nu year :-)

11:27 PM, December 27, 2006  

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