Is there a home for soil and rain?

Rabbits / Kaninchen
Rabbits / Kaninchen (Photo credit: Robobobobo)

home…soil…rain. That’s the writing prompt I stole from my wife’s blog.

Home and soil remind me of gardens. The first house I can remember living in had a strange garden, nothing grew in it. My mom tried to grow tomatoes and carrots, but worms infected the tomatoes and the carrots didn’t sprout.  She said the soil wasn’t good. When she said that, I imagined the previous owners salting the garden. That was a child’s dream because weeds had no trouble growing on that spot of dirty earth. To clean the thriving weeds and withering tomatoes from garden bed, she enlisted me and my brothers to uproot as much as we could. The weeds had cemented themselves into the ground, we just ripped off their leaves. As a reward for blistering our hands and making the garden look like a patch of greenish mange, my parents brought home two furry bunnies. I don’t remember where they got them. I just remember seeing them hopping around our backyard when I got home from school. One was pepper colored, the other was white with big brown spots.

The day we got the rabbits, I was so happy. It was like owning a private set of easter bunnies. I loved easter because my mom would always make us big easter baskets full of jelly beans, repulsive pink marshmallow peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies–they were engraven images: idols–I loved running my fingertips over the waxy grooves. I took it upon myself to fight idolatry in our home by eradicating the chocolate bunnies one delicious bite at a time.

If I had known what would happen with the living breathing bunnies, I would have told my parents to take them far far away. But I didn’t know, so I was happy for a few weeks. After that, I did something that I deeply regret–something that haunts me to this day. For reasons I do not understand, I grabbed the peppery rabbit by his neck and bashed his soft tiny head against the splintered wood fence in our backyard. What possessed me to do this, I cannot say. I liked the bunnies, they let me pet them and sometimes, they would bless with me with soft kisses on the tops of my fingers. That day my fingers betrayed them. After smashing the bunny’s head against the fence for the last time, I held his face to my face. I immediately dropped him when I realized that one of his eyes was bleeding. I remember seeing the blood trickle down his furry chin. I dashed inside the house and then out the front door. I ran and ran up into the hills to my favorite oak tree. I climbed as high as I could and I cried. I remember looking down, thinking that I should jump, that I should break my legs as punishment. But I didn’t jump. I just hit myself on the chest for long time, then climbed down. I felt guilty and sad and terrified. It was the first cruel thing I had ever done to another living being. Why did I hurt that helpless bunny? I was afraid of what I had done and wondered anxiously about what other horrible things I was capable of doing. I thought I was evil, that a demon had seen my sinful nature and possessed me. I was afraid that it would happen again. That fear lived inside me for twenty years.

Surprisingly, the peppery rabbit healed up. I cut his brow, not his eye, so he could still see. Needless to say, he fled from me whenever I went into the backyard. He and his friend burrowed through the fence into our neighbors garden where they feasted on exotic lettuce, carrots, and vegetables. Our neighbor must have had the good soil. Whenever he caught the rabbits dining on his produce, he’d yell, “I’m gonna stew those damned rabbits! The seeds for this lettuce came from Sicily!” Once he shot at them with a BB gun, but he missed. Because the rabbits were such a nuisance and because my parents feared that we would be victims of the bb-gun crossfire, they decided to let the bunnies loose in a huge cemetery in San Jose. It was and is the cemetery with huge lawns and lots of trees and plants and even some peacocks. It’s almost like a state park. It’s also the cemetery that presently holds my grandparents.

Rain reminds me of when I lived in San Jose, CA. I lived there almost up to my thirties. In the Bay Area, it rains on occasion and sometimes it even storms. When I think of California rain, I think of driving to see my girlfriend on a stormy spring evening. It was dark and the winds shook the branches and power-lines. The streets chattered with scattered limbs, leaves, and debris. I was the only one crazy enough to drive through the mess. Above me the sky boiled. Warm rain shot down–my wipers were turned on full blast. Power-lines swooshed, the wind surged with streams of warm and cold air. I drove with the window cracked open. I like to do that because it lets in the scents from outside and storms often smell wonderful. As I drove, I heard a loud thwack just to my left when I spun to look in that direction, a ginko tree tipped, clumps of muddy soil splashed onto the sidewalk and the entire tree slammed down right in front of my car. Luckily the road was wide, so I just drove around on it.

When I got to my girlfriend’s house, we prayed to God, thanking Him for saving my life and asking Him to end the storm. At the time, we were heavily into Benny Hinn style charismatic Christianity. We prayed in tongues, then we watched a movie and made out. After asking God’s forgiveness for making out, we were confident that He would end the storm and I pretended to be assured that I would never again bash an innocent rabbit’s head against a wood fence.

I wish I had happier associations to gardens and rabbits, soil, and home. But I don’t. I’m just harvesting what I have. That doesn’t bother me because I know that I am also master of what I sow.

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Surviving the Deadly Rip

I dug up this piece of my life from an old  journal entry written on banana paper.

Sign with illustration of rip current
What to do when you’re caught in a rip.

I was snorkeling Cano Island on the Osa Pennisula of Costa Rica.

While admiring the colorful and bizarre shapes of the tropical fish swishing in the clear warm waters below, I periodically kept an eye on Chrissy, one of the other guests on our voyage because I noticed that she was swimming dangerously close to a powerful rip current.

As soon as I saw her approach it, I told her to come ashore, but when she tried to swim, the rip carried her out.

Luckily, the cove was littered with boulder like rocks that peeped up just above the waters. The current took her out to the last rock. I cautiously swam from rock to rock toward her. It was weird because the current managed to weave around the rocks; so even though the rocks offered respite; they did not adequately block the pull of the rip. It was unpleasant to touch the rocks because they  were bustling with tiny sea creatures and were slathered with an icky smelly slime.

By the time I got close to Chrissy; she was in a full panic. The rip gained power the closer it got to open sea.  It was like swimming through whitewater rapids, except the surface was calm. Never felt a rip with such force.

Chrissy was falling apart; she only had one hand on the rock, her eyes were flitting from rock to sea, and she was crying. As I swam toward her, something in me snapped: I yelled at her “Shut Up! Grab the rock with your other hand.” I don’t know why I felt the need to yell at her–I barely knew her. Just met her that day. Logically, it seemed the WRONG thing to do, but it just burst out. It was a good move because it momentarily snapped her out of her frenzy of fear.

She did as I told her. When I got to her rock, I suddenly understood why she had become so unhinged. The rip was ragingly strong; the island was far away, and when we looked out to sea all we saw was a huge void of unforgiving, deadly ocean waters. The hunger of that ominous expanse frightened both of us.

My presence calmed her down a bit, but I could tell that she was still scared. I was too, but I was also confident that we could get out of the rip as long as we used our heads.

“OK,” I said, “Look, I’m a surfer. This is nothing. We’re gonna be fine.”

I pointed to a rock close to shore and said, “I’m gonna swim to rock, you swim right behind me and ‘draft'”. She nodded ascent.

Before I launched from the rock, I said, “DO NOT TO GRAB ME WHILE I SWIM.” That turned out to be a mistake.

About five or so breast strokes diagonally through the current, what I did feel on my shoulder? Her freaking fingernails tearing into my skin.
I yelled, “God Damn It! Don’t grab me! Just swim!”

This time, the yelling made her sob. When we got to the target rock, I could see that was she was ready to fall into another panic. She said, “I just feel like we’re getting pulled out to sea.”

It pissed me off. First of all we closer to shore; second of all, the woman almost pulled me under when I was struggling just to stay above water.

I apologized for yelling at her. Then, I told her to put on her snorkel and breath through that. I don’t know why I told her that. It just sort of came out of my mouth–the same way the yelling did. I figured that the snorkel would at least keep her quiet. But it turned out to be a genius move because the snorkel, with its tiny air-hole, forced her concentrate on her breathing.  It calmed her down quite a bit. We swam from rock to rock, luckily the rip faded the closer we got to shore.

When we got to shore, she gave me quick hug, which I thought was weird, and then she said, “You’re bleeding. Did you scratch yourself on one of the rocks?”

“Yeah,” I said rubbing my shoulder, “a rock scratched me.” (A rock named Chrissy!)

But that wasn’t the worst part, when we made it to shore, our guide stomped over to us and said, “You guys shouldn’t have been out on those rocks!”

“I know,” I said, “the rip was crazy.”

“The rip?!” our guide said, “That’s the least of your worries. Those rocks a hunting ground for salt water crocks!”

Chrissy and I burst into hysterical laughter. I don’t know why. What our guide said wasn’t funny at all, but it felt great to laugh. Somehow pissing off our guide and realizing that were in so more danger than we could have ever imagined made me feel fantastic and it made Chrissy’s scratch hurt just a little less.