Good morning Friends ; )
Last night, when I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore and Juwels was still folding clothes or sheets or something, she asked me to post this Lake Powell blog. "I just picked out and uploaded all the photos", she said. "It's all ready for you." She has a lot of draft blogs ready to go - our trip to the Deer Farm, the County Fair with its lights and rides and fried food ... but most don't involve Juwels almost dying .. in a dark, wet, in an all consuming way. . Maybe that's why I've been avoiding this one ??
It was my brother's birthday, and he'd been nibbling at us to take the weekend off and come along with him and his wife (who we call JuneBug - but her real, Thai name's Junli) and possibly a couple of his friends. We normally take our days off during the week, playing hooky on the 9 to 5 can show you empty hiking trails and swimming spots - no bumper to bumper down in Sedona or discarded beer cans and baby diapers in the creek ...
But in the end, that large body of water called us out of our candle factory and what a beautiful drive it was. Most of the road ran through the seemingly desolate Native American reservation where lone horses stood grazing on tiny weeds and mysterious Mars-like mountains split for our asphalt trail.
This is Paul and JuneBug's red Rav4. This little car has heart, and balls - climbing through whatever muck and mire Paul's adventurous mind steers it into. Although she did get stuck in the sand for a bit .. I jumped up and down on the roof to get a little bounce out of the deeply dug ruts, and with a few other helping hands, the lil' Ravi sprung free ; )
So a little history on Lake Powell. Not too long ago, it wasn't a lake at all, rather the Glen Canyon which many people said was even more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. In the name of generating electric power, against much protest, the canyon was filled in and drown, and a dam was built.
The lake is eire, and hundreds of feet deep in some areas, and it wasn't until after the trip, with juwels refusing to go to the hospital through lethargic lips, that I found out that many people say these waters are haunted.
It's said that people have heard the lonely songs of the wood flute and children laughing or crying from odd places on the lake. When the lake was still a canyon, many Native American burial grounds were tucked away in the cliffs ... that is until the industrial revolution sunk the whole place. With this karma and lore, many boats and bodies have mysteriously found an end at the rocky bottom. But we didn't know any of this and went along with smiles and games and corn cooked on the fire.
Setting up camp, I saw motorbikes and ATV's fish tailing along these paths. Dogs ran about in packs, wet and barking and sniffing through bags and coolers of neighboring camps. To our right, I saw a guy passed out in the sun and quickly turning red, and farther still, a group of people pushed and heaved at the bumper of a large truck, trying to free it from a sand trap.
I felt like a little kid in a world with no adults - where everyone was doing something in a way they'd been told not to, but that the veil of youthful luck and invincibility hovered over our heads and watched over us all. The remaining sun of the day was met with much laughter and splashing about. Floating out on a raft and bobbing over the wakes like an undulating worm, I tried not to look at the sun's fast decent behind the sand dunes with any want for more - it was just perfect.
Our house was the blue one on the left .. although we ended up collapsing it and sleeping out under the bright moonlight and passing clouds.
This canoe has been passed down through the family, and as the sun was loosing heat, juwels and I decided to take a paddle across the lake to the deserted east side.
When we finally beached the boat, we were overjoyed to see that as the sun was 10 minutes from falling below the dunes on our camp-side of the lake, on this shore, the sun was still high with a hour left of good heat.
Not our heart, but just waiting here for us along with a rock stack and a small collection of drift wood.
I don't know if I've every mentioned this, but for some reason, I feel a great connection with the Raven .. like maybe I was one in a past life ?? Juwels calls us the Crow and the Humming Bird. After learning that there's a difference between the crow and the raven - the raven is bigger, puts on arial shows, tucking its wings under, spinning upside down for a free fall before rolling back around and unfurling its wings for flight .. well . . now I think it's the raven who is my brother or watcher, but who knows. Anyway, this guy stood across from out heart-shaped post, puffed out his feathery throat and just Caw, Caw, Cawed at me, like, 'come fly with me.'
Back at the camp and welcoming the coming night. The air stayed warm for a while and the smell of campfires drifted along the coast. The dogs nestled down and the sun-burned guy beside us (who it turns out owns a cattle ranch) slapped a few burgers on the grill.
Now this is the end of the pictures for the day and night - juwels wasn't feeling up to it after what happened next (this one was actually taken the next morning, when we got our escaped canoe back which was somewhere on the other side of the lake.)
That night we cut kindling for the fire and brought and sat around in its heat and glow, and everyone was warm and toasty, and after a while, looking down the long coast and seeing all the camps lined up, I asked juwels if she wanted to take the canoe out. I thought we could stay close to the shore and just paddle along in the darkness and observe fire-lit faces and snippets of conversation.
Right away, Paul groaned, "I wouldn't go out there in the dark. You a-holes are gonna drown." I laughed at him and said, "What - do you think just because it's dark we're going to flip the boat? Chill out - we're going to stay close and just paddle along the edge."
"I wouldn't do it ..."
Juwels ran back to the car for a sweater or something, and I already had the boat in the shallow water. I decided to run back into the hills to pee real quick, and see if juwels could bring some snacks, and while I was back at the car, I noticed that the breeze had carried the boat 15 or 20 feet off into the water. "Oh, the boat !!" I yelped. And as soon as juwels saw it, she started laughing, pulled her dress up over her head and ran off for the water to save it. Little did I know that she wouldn't be coming back in on her own legs.
She's a great swimmer - in fact, one time when we were swimming way out past the waves in our favorite beach in Laguna (named Table Rock), I said to her, "Do you think you could save me if I was drowning?" She said yes, of course, so I went completely dead limp in the water and started to sink. She grabbed me around the chest and swam me into shore without trouble. Her power has always been an asset in our crazy, laborious lives, and something that I find very attractive and reassuring ... she's not that movie character who's going to trip in the chase scene and make me carry her on my back ; )
So as she swam off and disappeared into the darkness, I hadn't a worry, or a doubt, that she wouldn't be back with the boat in a matter of minutes. The breeze turned out to be actual wind, and the first thing I heard from juwels was, "I can't see it." There seemed to be a bit of panic in her voice already, and I asked around to find a flashlight. I clicked it on, and shined it out into the water. I couldn't see the boat or her.
The neighbors asked if they should take their catamaran sail boat out, but I'd seen them sail it earlier (they had just bought it the day before) and I figured they'd be lost in the night, so I said no thanks but asked if I could borrow their headlamp and blow-up dingy. They said sure, but told me that it was really slow. I got in the water and started to paddle out. I figured juwels had found the boat by then but knew there was no way to get into a canoe once you were already in the water, so I figured I could pick her up and we could tow the lost boat in.
"I'm coming out for you," I yelled as I paddled out. Paul hollered for me to put on a life jacket, but I ignored him. I moved from a sitting position to a kneeling position at the front of the boat to get a more solid scoop into the water. It felt odd coming out to rescue someone on your knees ... with the cushy unstable raft floor falling out from underneath and at a snail's pace. Juwels said something, but I only heard the end of it, "..I'm sorry." I thought she was apologizing for not being able to bring the boat in herself, but I later found out that, after swimming extremely far out into the lake with the boat always 20 feet ahead of her and carried by the wind, she'd called out, "I can't reach it .. I'm sorry."
A ways out myself, I called out a little nickname of hers (they change every few weeks) "Coopah!"
She didn't answer. I held my paddle out of the water, and waited in silence. I had the worst feeling in my gut, and although I wanted to call out again and again, so I could hear her voice and follow it, I was already so far out, and the thought of calling out again to silence put ice water in my heart. How could she not of heard me? Where is she? It was pitch black everywhere except for the small beam of my headlamp, and the tiny dancing orange fires back on the beach.
I forced myself to call out again and risk no reply. I thought of how dark it was and how vast and wondered what I would do next. "Coopah!!" There was a second's silence, and then I heard an almost calm voice, "Yes?" Right off from the boat. I spun around and the headlamp lit her head and shoulders in the water. I remember thinking that the sight looked like one of those nature shows where they're lighting up a crocodile in the dark water. It was surreal.
"You didn't find the boat?" I asked in disbelief, getting even more panicked at the idea that she had nothing to float on but her own steam.
I pulled her into the boat, and she curled up in the fetal position and she starred to hyperventilate and cry. I paddled us back in and called out, "I've got her."
In between coughing and crying, she said things like, "It was blowing out too far." and "I thought I could catch it but.." I told her to just relax and that nobody cared about the boat, and she went on, "I was calling out that I was tired .. that I was getting tired, but nobody answered. I said '"I'm getting tired"', and nobody answered."
That was like a dagger. Me, in this pathetic dingy in the dark, blind. I couldn't help her if she'd swallowed water. I thought about life without her and could barely stand on my knees. A lump rose in my throat and I just kept paddling. "I was coming out to you," I said. "Didn't you see that I was coming out? Didn't you see my light?" It's true, I was coming out to her. But I didn't know she was sinking. I thought she had a hold on the canoe, and that I was just coming out to make it easier to get back. I didn't know I was saving her, and I didn't have that saving energy and fiery blood. "I was calling out" I heard her words, and knew she felt all alone. I was sick with it.
"Did you swim to me?" I asked, wondering how I ended up right on top of her. "No," she said, "I willed you to me. You came right to me."
I thought that was beautiful and felt some reassurance that the universe didn't want to see us apart. "Why didn't you answer when I called out the first time?" She said she couldn't, that she'd inhaled too much water trying to call out the other times. It was that silence that haunted me. The few seconds when I thought it was just me left .. just the p and the & .. no j. Can't be. Unthinkable.
As we neared the shore, I saw one of Paul's friends waving a long beach towel over the fire and thought, what comforts this life has .. what consideration and care and warm comforts we afford each other. Nobody crowed around to peer into the boat at my coughing, crying, naked wife, but the towel was brought by, and I covered her up with it. I set out a blanket away from the fire (where everyone was wearing blank expressions), and juwels coughed for about 30 minutes straight. I made her cup after cup of tea, and she told me her lungs hurt. I told her I was sorry.
Well .. now that I've dumped all of that on you, I'll tell you that there was an even more drawn-out and dramatic event with her the next night involving something called "dry drowning" - where you can basically die in your bed up to 72 hours later with fluid in your lungs. On the way home, juwels faked okay, requesting stops at Native murals and pottery stands for pictures and postcards, but once we hit elevation, she confessed that she felt weird. Dizzy, spacey, heavy chested, and nauseous. When we got home, she had me look up what herbs she could take to get the water out of her lungs, and doing so I learned about dry drowning, how deadly it was and that she was showing -all- the signs including the strong urge to just go to sleep at 6pm.
Laying on the couch, she would barely open her eyes and spoke in sentences as if she were decoding them from morse code in her brain.
"Get up," I said, "your going to the hospital."
She didn't want to go .. for the cost and the white walls and the smell of death and medicine and anxiety, and I didn't blame her, but I'd already saved her from that water once, and I wasn't going to just sit by and watch her sleep her way into asphyxiation. "They said it doesn't go away on its own - you need steroids and harsh Western warfare. Get up, now."
"Just call my mom - she'll know what to do," she said.
Her mom's a naturopathic doctor who lives on the east coast and has cured all sorts of other things that the mainstream had given up on ... including her own loss of taste and smell. As the phone rang, I realized how late it must be over there, and seeing as though I'd never called her mom before, I knew as soon as she heard my voice, her oh-shit alarm would be going off. "Hello," she answered, voice cracking. "Hi, Cheryl," I said, "Um .. juwles and I were at the lake last night and (oh, come on, peter, I thought, why not just start with 'everything's alright, but ...') well, juwels inhaled some water, and I don't know if she's getting phenomena .. or this dry drowning thing I read about, but she doesn't want to go to the hospital, and said I should call and see what herbs she can take."
After a bit of doing, and some thumbing through a very thick book of herbs, she told me to go to the health food store and get Elderberry syrup and Mint tea, make a strong Peppermint tea, 24 oz, with a tablespoon of Elderberry and make sure she drank it every 2 hours. "That stuff works pretty quick," she said, "so if you don't see results in the first few hours, take her to the hospital."
I haven't been to the doctor in over five years and never get sick because of the quality of food and super foods we eat, and I believe in it, I do, but when it's life for death, the words 'mint tea and elderberry' can seem a little flowery, but respected her wishes and raced out to the store, but first told juwels that if she wanted to stick this out, she'd have to sit up, stay up, and speak in complete sentences, otherwise, I was doing to call out the cavalry, and we'd have to nuke her whole system with antibiotics and steroids.
And just like magic - after I returned and mixed up this concoction along with some Pleurisy Root which her mom also suggested but doubted I would find, juwels was up, eyes wide and watching "Cider House Rules" and other things with me till the wee hours. Her breathing was much better, and I set alarms all night and made sure that she woke up to have her tea every two hours. Slowly but surely, over the next few days, I got my hummingbird back ; )
Why tell this story? Why live this story? I thought about that. And I think that it's a testament that life is fragile, and a gift .. and it can be extinguished or drowned out in even the most confident and powerful lights. We need to appreciate it - all- and for God's sake, put on a life jacket before we take any chances in the dark haunted waters of this world. I love her more since this happened - I didn't think it was possible, but it is, and I'll guard her even more closely in this timeline fading, and you all, please, do the same with the ones you love.
the crow & the hummingbird ; )