I met Jacque, founder and resident secular saint of the Angels for Sara Sanctuary at the front gate. She ushered Bonnie and Clyde out with ten or so yapping dogs behind her. She rescued them all from certain death and their victory song was sweet music indeed.
Clyde beelined for the trunk of my car, ravenous for treats, while Bonnie sniffed around some lawn gnomes.
Jacque and I discussed the phenomenal success of the sanctuary’s recent rummage sale. I told her she was an inspiration to me and thanked her for allowing me to spend time with Bonnie and Clyde. I tried to describe how they have helped sustain my spirit in the darkest period of my life and nurtured my creative mind.
I also told Jacque that I probably wouldn’t be around this winter to walk with the dogs in rain along the river. Then again, maybe I will. Perhaps in some sense, I will always be walking Bonnie and Clyde along the Lewis and Clark River, retaining the invaluable lessons and insights that unfolded with my crew, and put them to good work in the wider tiny world I’ll be inhabiting most likely for the rest of my life.
Jacque thanked me for my effort on behalf of Bonnie and Clyde and the rummage sale. She then produced two jars of homemade blackberry jam as a token of appreciation.
This is the way the world needs to operate: saving dogs, saving people, saving rivers, and blackberry concoctions and blackberry confections as reward. Who wants to create that country with me?
I noticed a new old dog behind Jacque and asked about it.
The sanctuary took in Jane but Jacque had quickly found a foster home so Jane could live out the rest of her life in comfort. She was shipping out tomorrow. I asked who had adopted the dog and Jacque mentioned a name and said she worked at the Clatsop County Jail.
I know who she is She was one of my jailers and showed incredible compassion toward me and my fellow inmates. After my release, I wrote her a letter of thanks, particularly for one distinct look exchanged between us that indicated she understood. That exchange also involved her coming out from behind a rolling cart and handed me a lunch tray that contained what I would soon create as the worst cheese sandwich in America, but she came out nonetheless, handed my meal over, and that meant everything.
That look, that handing over is how the world should operate. The deputy deserves something blackberry, too.
Jacque had to go and we said our goodbyes. Bonnie and Clyde and I trekked through the pasture to the river. It was a hot morning on the North Oregon Coast and I slowed down my pace for the dogs. I wanted to run, but they just can’t handle the exertion.
We reached the river’s edge. I fed the dogs treats and then Bonnie flopped down in the water and Clyde flopped down in the high grass on the bank. I sat down.
Movement below me, in the river, caught my eye. I stood up and took two steps to investigate.
Hundreds of wild salmon fry (not fake hatchery brood) darted around in the shaded areas of the water. Later they would become fingerlings, rear for a couple of years as they moved down the watershed, interacting and changing with saltwater. They would transform into smolts, then make the perilous run down the Columbia River to the ocean. Perhaps a couple years later, with luck, they would return to the streams of their births, spawn, fertilize eggs in the gravel, die, decompose and nourish the watershed; the anadromous cycle at work in all its evolutionary glory.
Whenever I witness the cycle, and I feel lucky to have seen it several times, the sight never ceases to astonish and connect me to my role in the watershed—my religion as it were—the oldest one in human existence, the one with no sacred texts, prescribed hierarchies, pulpits or pews.
This religion seems so obvious to me, even more so by the river. You can hold it in your hands and wash it into your face.
For some reason, I remembered something my father, an ex preacher, has always suggested (not preached) to me. A line from the Old Testament, not sure what book: “Cast your bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”
Why that particular passage entered my mind at this particular moment was strange to me. Perhaps water was the connection.
Bread upon the waters. Cast your bread upon the waters. What is the bread I have to cast at this disrupted, marginalized time in my life? Where is the water?If I do cast, will I find the bread after many days? Could be years, decades. Never.
I can’t give up. There is bread still within my soul. I’m still baking.
A swallow dived across the surface of the water. Then another. I reached into my pocket and felt around: one treat left. Okay, I thought to myself, extend the metaphor, make it more corporeal, watch one unfold in real time. Use that damn Bible! You’re an ex-preacher’s kid!
I cast the treat into the river. It began to drift slowly downstream. Where would it end up?
A sound emanated behind me. I turned. Clyde had splashed into the water! He gimped ten feet and wolfed down the treat!
“You damn treat hound!” I roared. Then I laughed and I heard my laughter echo lightly downriver.
Clyde rolled out his tongue Rolling Stones-style and returned to shore. I gave him a rub on the side and we three headed home. We skipped along together and the swallows dropped in to escort us.
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