My small toe is a bit sore and the rest of me is generally sore. We head home, not in the Storm Bus, because Kim drove that home with Michelle a week ago. Mika and I share the driving in our pickup.
Kim knows we are out of the backcountry and we know that Michelle is well, that little unanswered question taken care of courtesy of the magic of texts.
We drive south on 395, my favorite highway. It’s current nature is a bizarre gift of circumstance. The barons of finance in Los Angeles—a growing city having a thirst for water back in the early 20th Century—gobbled up basically the entire Owens Valley, bought it and the water rights that came with the land. They built dams and diversion canals and sent it all south to the exploding sprawl. Hard fought legal battles that took decades had forced the DWP (Department of Water and Power) to return a portion of the annual runoff back to the river, which had been pretty much dried out. That and Owens lake which had become a massive dust producer, filling the air with choking powder. And the crown jewel survived and recovered as well, Mono Lake. Many thanks to all those who made this good trouble and saved this beauty.
But the strange serendipity is that the valley is essentially undeveloped in the way the rest of the state is. There are no cancerous tract home subdivisions, no freeways, no multi-story high rises emanating out from a neglected “old town.” It’s all old town and very much has the feel of having stepped back in time. Even knowing the history and the greed and the uncaring theft, I love the feel that it has. Strange consequences.
We drive towards a massive thunderstorm and flash flood warnings are coming in often on our cellphones. Mika is at the wheel. I think I’ll sleep but the double rainbows ahead, created by the setting sun over the massive peaks keeps me alert. Beauty, such beauty.
And I think about danger.
I know this is it, this is the end of the journeys for Michelle, long journeys in a bus at any rate. We have done what we set out to do and she has had moments with many family and friends, touched and been touched by them, smiled, cried, wailed and trilled. It was perhaps a foolhardy thing to do but I think not. I think it would have been worse to wish I had done this and not done so, not done this with and for her.
As we come ever closer to the falling wall of water cutting across the highway ahead, it occurs to me that many things have gotten balled up, like twisted yarn, in our country and one of those things is the loss of distinction between danger and recklessness. There is always some danger in life, the world if fraught with these things: falls, breakdowns, storms and unforeseen losses as well as dangers like these trips and trekking in the mountains which are self-created dangers that awaken the wits, test the limits of the body and put you in a state of necessity.
These things are all acceptable to me and I like them, like them as part of the dance of living.
I’m not a fan of recklessness and I believe that is what many fear; not danger per se. A drunk driver, a person running around brandishing or using a weapon, a bully, a distracted person in public on their phone. These are all cases of not really being there, of the person creating danger for others out of all sense or measure, far more dangerous to others than to self and for no productive reason.
All this becomes part of that ball of yarn in our world and it seems to me that many lump in good danger with recklessness and begin to avoid it all. Not the best course of action.
We finally enter the wall of water and Mika slows down as she should. We are in the danger. Other drivers, perhaps not noticing or caring, maintain their eighty-five mile per hour LA rush and fly by. We are in the reckless. She gets us through it, and I take over for the final miles home.
I drive through the familiar, knowing how long it takes to come closer.
We arrive late, Michelle is sleeping peacefully, Kim watching over her. We are home.