Monthly Archives: October 2021

There But for The Grace; Here, Because of the Grace

You know me.  I do not pretend to be religious.  As a recovering Catholic and survivor of clergy abuse (an expedient phrase which I nonetheless dislike), I start and end my faith, such as it is, with a divine entity, angels, and the Book of Ruth.  But this week, a certain grace spared me and also put me in a place from which I cannot say that I want to retreat.

As I came home from work on Monday, doom gripped my soul.  Sirens rose into the autumn air.  A rolling plume of black smoke tumbled across the sky.  I turned onto the California Delta Loop where I live.  Unbidden, an old prayer escaped my lips:  Holy Mary, Mother of God. . . Please, I begged; please do not let that be Park Delta Bay.  I understand the nuances of the ten-mile circle on which we live well enough to know that it had to be close, if not our actual park.  I thought of my neighbors and friends.  I accelerated into the hairpin turn just as a text pinged my phone.  I did not stop until I had our marina in sight.  Not us.   I braked and looked at my phone.  My friend Tracy:  Rancho is burning my god it’s bad I’m going to see if I can help.

It was bad.  Fire would rage through a mobile home and RV park and destroy 50 dwellings and several administrative buildings.  One-hundred fifty humans would be left without a home, of whom thirty-five are children.  Another twenty RVs or trailers, though unburned, would need to relocate.  There, but for the grace of whatever divine entity you acknowledge, go I and my neighbors, a mere 3.2 miles around the circle of the Delta Loop and two miles across Andrus Island as the winter crow flies.

When I drove to St. Louis to say goodbye to my family before moving to California, my brother Frank said many tender things to me.  But one of his more blunt statements lingers.  Please, just tell me you’re not going to live in a trailer park, he urged.  I shook my head.  Okay, I replied, with what I imagine might have been a rueful smile, I won’t tell you.

The term “trailer park” has negative connotations in my state of birth, Missouri.  Common beliefs center on the poverty that most assume forces folks to choose insubstantial dwellings and transient accommodations.  In Kansas City, where I raised my son, tornado season ravaged the trailer parks of the southeastern suburbs.  Smug in our stable homes, we shook our heads and poured second cups of coffee as we lingered over the newsprint headlines.

My brother Frank is a good man.  He did not mean to disparage an entire segment of American population.  He only feared for his sister.  He worried that I might be alone, that I might have little comfort; that I might stumble on the rough ground of an untended property.  He may lay his fears to rest.

Before the fires died; before the second surge as the Delta winds rose; the community lifted itself and went to work.  Boxes and bags and piles of donated items accumulated in a local bar.  That same bar fed people without charge for days on end — residents of the impacted park, first responders, and volunteers.  Firefighters battled the blaze for twenty-four hours, many from our local all-volunteer River Delta Fire District.  People opened their homes, their wallets, and their hearts.  The bounty of this community flooded us with love as thick as that black smoke which so terrified me.

As the week draws to a close, the community room of the clubhouse at my own park groans under the weight of many of the donations.  The staff, management, and residents of Park Delta Bay, the Lighthouse Sports Bar, and area businesses have put aside their normal tasks and schedules to receive and sort an endless flow.  Major items such as trailers and mobile homes have been promised.  A local Facebook Group, the Delta News, provides a clearinghouse for information.  Schools, businesses, restaurants, and just plain folk keep giving, in a time when their own resources surely must already feel strained.  Surveying what neighbors and community members have given, I can only shake my head and wonder at the tireless generosity.

As I stood outside my home and watched the low-flying CalFire planes swoop through their circle for another pass at a saving airdrop, I could not help but mutter:  There but for the grace of God, go I.  In the coming days, my mantra changed:  Here, because of the grace of God,  dwell I.

It’s the sixteenth day of the ninety-fourth day of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

“Before Believing” by Danny Flowers.  Hauntingly performed by Emmylou Harris.

Winter; Summer season is taken over it’s quiet
Like new fallen snow
I told you summer stories but outside is getting mighty cold
I told you everything I could about me
Told you everything I could
How would you feel if the world was falling apart around you

Pieces of the sky were falling in your neighbors yard
But not on you
Wouldn’t you feel just a little bit funny
Think maybe there’s something you oughta do

Solutions that never lay down before you the answers are all around
Believing is all the friend you need to talk to
Believing in you
I told you everything I could about me
Told you everything I could

I told you everything I could about me
Told you everything I could

Hover your cursor over each image to see a brief caption.

Every Little Once In A While

Junk overran my car this week.  Piles of opened mail, abandoned sweaters and scarves, a broken walking stick, and empty water bottles shift to the floor if I have to make a sudden stop.  My schedule denies me the time I need to address this issue but it haunts me, piling on guilt like the extra ten pounds around my waist for which I cannot blame the pandemic.  I’ve just eaten too much and the fat has inched itself back into my life like the rubble in the RAV4.  Neither has yet reached critical mass but I’ve got to take control, and soon.

The last two days have challenged me as I have not felt for months, maybe years.  Alone in the back office of the firm where I work, I’ve waded through files with someone else’s bar number scattered through pages which I have indexed.  As a lawyer, an attorney, but without a California license, I serve as combination glorified legal assistant and voice of experience at least on the fringes of an area of law that I never practiced back home.  Occasionally my skills flash and I do something that I know, without a shred of uncertainty, rises to the level of my capabilities.  Most days, I just do what I can to not disgrace myself.  But with the “real” lawyer out of town, I’m slogging through tasks as quickly as I can to keep the boat afloat.

Looming ahead this coming weekend, an event two years dormant challenges my organizational skills.  On Saturday, swarms (we hope) of tiny house aficionados descend upon the community where I live.  My house must be clean by dawn; and all of the bits and bobs of presentation that I’ve scheduled must coalesce into an informative, engaging experience.  Signs must be completed and posted; models parked; banners raised.  I’m already tired.

It’s a life, I suppose.  For all of the commotion; despite the many emails and the frequent texts; I spend most of my time alone.  The fan whirrs in the upper loft and another in the bathroom.   Occasionally I hear the windchimes through the open window in the sitting room.  Otherwise only the constant noise in my ears provides any sort of company.  I admit to being rather lonely, considering how busy I actually am.  Most of the time, I shuffle about in a cloud of gloom.  I question whether I bargained well, trading my law practice, my 1400 square foot airplane bungalow, my art space, and a city of cohorts for a tiny life 90 miles inland from the Pacific.

But every little once in a while, I get the money shot.  I stop on the levee road at exactly the right moment.  I lower the window with sufficient care.  I raise my camera; and even though the hawk which I want to photograph senses my presence and lifts himself from the wire, I get him.  Then I see a car approaching in the rear view mirror, and I slip my foot from the brake.  I continue home, suddenly smiling, suddenly sure.

It’s the seventh day of the ninety-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Dust Of Snow
by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Sunday, Sweet Sunday

On Thursday, rather than merely waving to my neighbors Candice and Donna Jean, I pulled my car into Candice’s lot and invited myself to join their afternoon confab.  On Friday, I visited with Melissa,  a neighbor here on the tiny house row of the RV park in which I live.  As the evening drew to a close that day, I realized that it had been a long time since I had enjoyed a few minutes of respite with no responsibilities.  

Saturday found me scrambling with chores and preparation for the open house for tiny house aficionados taking place here at Park Delta Bay next weekend.  Posters, decor, directions, and logistics still must coalesce.  I’ve been honored with the task of coordinating the event.  Meanwhile, my own house will be open and I have to clean, declutter (an endless affair), and create a sign to display so that the young lady whom I have hired to show my house has a few facts at her fingertips.

Now Sunday has come — sweet Sunday, when most people relax and stroll to the nearest cafe for brunch with their family and friends.  My mind drifts to Kansas City, where I might be having coffee with Penny Thieme or driving out to see the latest progress on Genevieve and Wes Casey’s bus conversion.  Instead, I will sweep my porch and run into Lodi for additional supplies and groceries.  Laundry must be sorted and stowed.  The eternal gathering of dust on my window sill mocks me and needs a good swipe. 

Later, I will find respite on the porch.   A hummingbird will sip sugar water from the feeder on my plant stand.   Sweet autumn air will flow through the open windows of Angel’s Haven.   As dusk gathers, I will go inside and rest my aging body in the beautiful rocker which my friend Tracy gave me.  Eventually, night will wrap itself around me, and I will sleep.

It’s the third day of the ninety-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.