Here on the California Central Coast, we're in year three of a drought. There wasn't enough rain this year to grow the grass that feeds the range cattle. We're on water rationing. Things could get much worse. A lot of people around here are praying for rain.
This morning, it's balmy in my sunroom, and my fingers aren't chunks of ice because.....IT'S RAINING! The rain patters on my glass roof, sometimes heavy, sometimes soft. Gusts of wind make giant oak limbs sway, make the sycamores shudder. There's a whole bunch of motion in the trees, that rain dance that proves the invisible wind is a visible force. Once I heard that if you have trouble believing in God, consider him to be like the wind. You can't hold the wind, or see it, but you can feel it on your skin and see the evidence of its passage.
Late September and October are grape harvest times. Maybe the only people in this region who are troubled by the rain are grape growers, who might worry about the rain's effect on the vines or how to get in the harvest, given the weather.
This photo of a spot down the road from me was taken by a friend named Robert Stevenson. He's a good photographer who volunteers much of his time and work to the downtown nonprofit association. It's part of a national organization dedicated to saving old downtowns and reviving them, called the National Main Street Association. In 2004, I wrote an application for an award called The National Main Street City Award, which honors the preservation and economic revitalization of a dying downtown.
We won that national award. Our Main Street organization has done a tremendous job of preserving and revitalizing our once-pathetic downtown, dying because of shopping centers built on the perimeters. One elderly woman runs the association, assisted by one executive assistant, and hundreds, literally hundreds, of volunteers who do the work.
In 2004, when I wrote the application for the national award, I interviewed an architect who was instrumental in both the start-up of the project and its current status. His name was Rand Salke. He spoke of downtowns as if they were living ecosystems, beings that people could help to thrive. He was funny, smart, and a big help in my telling of the history of our downtown.
He killed himself this year. He suffered from a sudden depression, a big one, that blinded him to his talents, his value to others, his young daughters' need for him, his wife's love, and everything else that blessed his life. He refused to take medication.
A month earlier, my beloved cousin Julie died of complications from diabetes and a transplant. She fought to live almost all her life. What gave her strength to keep up the fight, as her body tried to die a hundred times, was her relationship with God. She talked with him daily, studied the Bible, encouraged struggling friends, and was best friends with her husband and her mother, my beloved aunt who is the sister of my demented mom. Julie did her best to live. She took dozens of medications for the transplant and the complications. She did whatever was necessary to live a full, contented life.
A couple of weeks after Rand hung himself, one of our young AA girls commited suicide. She had managed to stay sober for several months, but she had a mental illness, she heard voices, and she refused to take the medication to treat the illness. The voices told her that the solution was to die and go to heaven.
There's a point to my rambling about death and medication. Even the rain factors in. We all live on hope: hope that the paycheck will come, the car will work, the spouse will keep loving you, the sun will rise again tomorrow. We hope we'll make a difference in someone's life. We hope our poetry is good enough. We hope we'll stay sober one more day. We hope for what we cannot see: a good future, a contented life, a God who loves us individually and who uses all things for the good of those who love him.
When hope dies, the man dies. Maybe not literally, but the spark dies inside. Rain is a form of hope. I hope the earth will be replenished, the thirst of the earth will be satisfied. I'm having trouble with generating hope, feeling like my faith is fragile. But the doctors told me if I take the medications, I'll feel better. I take the meds, so there must be some hope. Thanks for listening. My husband says I have stop now and go to a meeting. Suit up and show up. Take the body, and the mind will follow. AA gives us hope.