This week was such a yin and yang of gray rainy days in the first half held up next to the sunny, clear days of the second half. We got over a foot of rain from the end of last week to the middle of this week. It was way more water than the ground could hold, so it pooled up in places and plunged in others, and it took several dry days for the water to find its normal place. It’s been one of those weeks where you are left just witnessing a steady, unrelenting barrage of what the Earth can throw at you, and then it settles and leaves you looking at what it did in relative peace and quiet. There’s a complicated web of thoughts that comes at times like this.
On Tuesday, I went to Portland for meetings, taking Highway 6 through the Tillamook State Forest. For much of that trip, the road goes side-by-side with the Wilson River. It is typically what you imagine when you hear, “mountain stream.” It flows over rounded gray rocks with shallow and deep patches. It winds, speeds up, slows down, with this healthy blue-green color, when it isn’t the white of rapids. When you imagine fly fishers, you imagine them in a river like this. But, on Tuesday the Wilson River did not look itself. It was brown, swelled, and powerful. The water seemed to have so much force that it was plowing into the water in front of it. It could not move fast enough to satisfy itself. It was to be feared, today. And the rain kept coming.
On my way home from Portland, the rain got stronger and the wind began to bluster and throw my vehicle every now and then. On the phone, Allyson said to be very careful, because the weather I was coming to was no better. At one moment, I noticed two oncoming vehicles flash their lights at me, and a second later I came to a fallen branch bigger around than my leg, longer than I am tall, covering most of my lane. It was raining so hard that I might not have seen it quickly enough to dodge if not for the oncoming cars. And, if the other lane hadn’t been clear, I might have been forced to hit it anyway. Upon leaving earlier in the morning, my boss Steve warned me that this was landslide weather. All along Highway 6 there were waterfalls spewing out of the mountains, where it is normally dry. I understood what he meant.
In the prayer book I read each day, the verses have been mostly from the prophets like Isaiah and from Revelation. It’s typical this time of year for the church lectionary to focus on the prophetic books of the Bible, because Christ’s birth celebration is just around the corner. It seems to me these books either get used exclusively as future predictors for people assuming they are the winning characters in the story or they are just avoided, because they are too much of a downer or get used in a way that doesn’t feel comfortable. As I’ve read them, I’ve felt a lot that resonated with current events. The first Isaiah verse I read this week said something about refugees. As I read them, I like to see them as this great poetry that talks about things that seem to run in cycles. I don’t think Isaiah or John was predicting the Romans or the Nazis or ISIS or how the end of time is going to go down. I think they are talking about all of it and none of it at once. They saw it happen, and in their writing, they left us something we can read and be like, “I get what he’s talking about.”
I think for us to read these books and think they are talking about something specific to come is like reading Leaves of Grass or Ginsberg’s Howl as the definitive authority on how future events will precipitate. But these guys know all about disasters and tragedies, and they wrote stuff that still resonates when we experience natural disasters, war, and social upheaval. What gets missed a lot, though is the incredible amount of hope they talk about too. The more I read, the more I realize these books are always driving for people to come together, for unity even with those who have been considered historical enemies. These books aren’t too far off from what we are constantly posting and reading on facebook. People sad and mourning over the tragedy of the world, people optimistic we can build a better world.
On Wednesday, Allyson’s parents were scheduled to fly out of Portland. Our road was covered in water in several places and was barely passable in the Civic. Allyson, though, is great at getting out of problems. She powered the Honda through some pretty deep standing water. Allyson’s parents had been in since last week, and the several clear days we had early on gave way to constant rain. This allowed for a lot of puzzle time and some cooking lessons, that is certainly a good alternative to sunshine. The car never stalled as Civic left and came home, but the water stood on the road for several days. Another day of rain, and we might have been stranded.
The rain subsided later in the week. On Friday, we made the trip back to Portland to pick up our good friend Danielle, who is in to spend Thanksgiving with us along with 3 other friends. Because going home twice during the holidays would be more than we can afford this year, we are spending it with a few of our closest friends. On Saturday, Allyson, Danielle, and I climbed Saddle Mountain. It was the coldest climb I’ve made, but it was also the clearest. We could see the great Pacific Northwest Mountains: Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, and even Mount Jefferson. Danielle is very interested in Mount St. Helens, and I love the experience of traveling with someone to a place that will amaze them. Each time we stood near one of those breathtaking overlooks, I felt so much joy to see them feeling something akin to what I felt when I first made this hike.
There is something about standing on a mountain with a group of companions. You have scaled the mountain together, climbing the steep hills. You look out for miles and see so many beautiful sites. You feel the wind, unobstructed, something few people have experienced the same way. You share the soreness, the awe. You’ll share the memory too. We have known Danielle for so long, been through so many ups and downs together. This is just another chapter we share together. These are the moments we consistently hope for together. Together, at this incredible vantage point, knowing all you have shared, not knowing what is to come, but hopeful your time together will lead to some kind of triumph.
I have had a small taste of the power of this world. The power to destroy and the power to build. I know it could get much worse, and I know it could get much better. These times are uncertain, to be sure. They were probably even more uncertain for Isaiah and John. When I look at the rivers overflowing, I hear their poetry. When I stand with friends in this changing, growing community I hear it too. When I see these friends, I’m filled with hope. I believe we can rebuild the cities, the gardens. We can give life back. If there is tragedy, it does not have to be the end. There is something special here, something that should be shared.