Last Tuesday I drove home from work in a hailstorm. The rain lashed my ten-year-old minivan and I watched sheets of water shed down hillsides and form streams in the low places. Lines of cars and trucks and vans pulled over onto the side of the road, but I held steady, plowing through fast-running water on the road. I worried about my tomato plants—their new, tender growth vulnerable to breaking. I hadn’t even staked them yet, waiting to see where they might need it most. When I arrived home, the rain was too heavy to check. I stood in front of the bay window and watched the stalks bend under the weight of all that wet.
Finally, in the evening, the sun came out, but it was only a short reprieve. It would rain on and off in sudden, violent bursts for three more days.
I worried about my tomato plants and my beans but the news told stories of nursing homes being evacuated, of children swept away in fast-rising water, of power outages, and burning homes floating down a swollen river. It felt surreal. Then, Friday night we went to a blues festival along the Kanawha River and I was stunned at how high the water was. We were on the University of Charleston lawn, directly across from the capitol building. From where I stood I could see the capitol steps had been swallowed up by the river. Bits of debris and chunks of unidentified objects flowed through the fast-moving waters as I stood on the bank with a lump in my throat.
Yesterday gave us our first day without rain in a while. I slipped on my orange rubber clogs and splashed out to check my little garden. The beans were fine, vining up their trellises happily. But I worried over the tomatoes. They were bent and twisted, leaning precariously in awkward positions—but not broken. I rummaged around in the crawl space under the house until I found my old tomato cages and wooden stakes. I worked for hours, until my fingertips turned green and smelled of tomato leaves. I pinched off low hanging leaflets and suckers, I cut an old pair of panty hose into strips and tied up errant limbs. I worked until my back hurt and my nose was running, my feet soaked from wet grass and soggy earth.
In the paper this morning, there is a long list of things we can do if we want to assist the flood victims and/or with clean up efforts. Local churches and grocery stores are collecting drinking water and cleaning supplies, the Red Cross has set up shelters for people, and a shelter has been set up for pets by the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association, but if you want to donate to the efforts, here are a couple ways:
- Volunteer or donate to the Red Cross. Visit org/local/west-virginia or www.volunteerwv.org
- Volunteer or donate to the United Way of Central West Virginia: htt://unitedwaycwv.org/
- Talk to your church about making a donation to either of the above, or do what the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are doing.
There are so many things we can’t control when disasters strike, but there are always ways to help. And I can always pray.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, in her audiobook Seeing in the Dark: Myths and Stories to Reclaim the Buried Knowing Woman, says it is a miracle to be born into this life. ” … given all the things that can occur between conception and birth and beyond,” she says, ” it’s a miracle not only to be born but to remain alive in this this world. There’s a reason … for us to be doing what we do, thinking what we think, feeling what we feel, seeing what we see, and bringing it into a world that literally is starving to death.”
Today I celebrate the lives of those we lost this past week, and all the gifts they brought into this world. I pray with my heart heavy, lift my neighbors up before the One who can bring light to the darkness. I pray as I stake and tie up a tomato plant, bringing order to the mess, pruning to make room for new fruit.