Death and Life

i have a story to tell. 
at the river the other day we had a glimpse of the sublime.
something so frightening it shifts faultlines of the soul;
to come face to face with death is also to come face to face with life.

some of darin's strange photographs of that day capture the mysterious vast power of nature, life and death.
reminding me of the relentless haunting of Picnic at Hanging Rock, or Twin Peaks...
a strange and unknowable force hovering through the rocks and water. 
hanging on the branches and riding the currents.
so invincible and bewildering that we feel the need to protect our children from it, to hide away from it in the dark. to never be lost in it. to never let it find us.

but truth be told, the day was beautiful. the children were fine and free, the water felt perfect, it was clear and green and flowing strong but swimworthy.

Siri, rebecca and zack's chocolate lab pup, bounded right into the water and swam straight across to the other side. she did this over and over, happy as a lark, strong and elegant, shiny as an otter. she would roll and tumble and push herself like a landed fish through the sand on the other side, bathing exuberantly in the dust like a baby elephant.

siri followed rebecca through the water, her happy-go-lucky little buddy while sylvan (zack and rebec's 6 year old son) stayed by me close to the shore. that's where we were when siri's stick started floating toward the edge of the waterfall going over the rocks; not all that high but with a killing smashing current. and siri started following it. confusion ensued. people were screaming for her to try to get her to swim against the current. she would turn one way, then the other, while the current took her toward the crashing falls.

my brother mikie, who had foolishly thrown the stick, rushed over to straddle the falls in hopes of catching her before she went over. sylvan began shrieking "NO!!! NO!!!! NO!!!!" and i grabbed him up and held him close while he wept and pleaded. I held him tight and said, "everything is going to be okay, she's okay sylvan," while my own heart sank as i watched his dog go, sucked over the edge.

it was a flash. amber, mikie's girlfriend, was in the water swimming toward the other side and told later how she saw the collar fly into the air. next thing i knew, mikie was gone from above. darin says that mikie simply disappeared. my brother, trained river guide, strongest swimmer of us all, had been plunged down into the crevice off the side of the falls and was being pummeled under violent tumults bearing down with all the force of the stone mountains.

 next thing i saw was darin hurl himself downward. zack says i wouldn't believe the heroic lunge darin made. apparently darin yelled "WHERE's MIKIE" as they searched the frothing whiteness for a sign. darin anchored himself on the rocks and plunged his arm down in. far below the in the churning, he felt mikie's fingers. mikie was being trapped directly underneath the powerful plunging current. he could not move upwards or sideways. what i saw from my spot upriver was zack going down and grabbing darin's feet. that's when i knew something was terribly wrong and my heart wildly lurched. but lucky for mikie, that's when they were able to haul him up and out of the water.

my dad was with us too. he had hurried downriver to see if he could help catch the dog. the first indication he had that his son might have drowned was darin pulling mikie's head up and yelling "BREATHE!" and then the guys with amber pulling too, hefting him out of the water and up over the rocks. i can't imagine the tumult in my sweet pops soul at that moment.

everyone was okay. siri came to shore down river, sputtering a little from being trapped under the falls. but she had gone with the current and not gotten stuck under or between any underwater rocks, so she was lucky. rebecca carried her back in her arms to a very relieved little sylvan. siri was shaken, a lot more cautious of the water, and making sure to go up and love everyone gently, like she was saying thank you, and she was glad to be alive.

in fact, as soon as mikie sat down on the rock, she barked (only time she barked all day) and went to him. she stayed like that, with her head in his lap, grateful and quiet, for a long long time.

we all talked about it for hours. our hearts finally slowed back down and we stopped shaking. we swam a little more and made peace with the water. siri, after a couple hours, swam across following rebecca's lead. we had met with death in the boundarylands of our disquiet world, and we were awed. 

all back together again. all you can feel is the purest love for those around you, your friends and family who swim with you, laugh with you, hold you. suddenly it feels like there are no veils between us, no borders of the universe, all possibilities open. all hearts open. i was grateful for a staggering knowledge of love.

and i can't help but be a little proud of my hero husband and my strong brother and this vibrant group of my beloveds who stared at the glowing heart of the universe on a blue summer day.


Clare said…
I'm so happy that your brother and husband and doggie are safe. My poor heart stuttered just reading this, It must have been terrifying to have experienced.

Blessings and hugs to you and your family.
oh my heart was in my mouth reading this and i am so happy that everyone ended the day safe.
Milla said…
Honey, oh I'm so happy everyone's okay. Even though you said so in the beginning my heart was in my throat the whole time I read this and I couldn't help but crying. Thank goodness for Darin's quick reflexes and intuition, thank goodness the river gave Mikie back and thank oh, everything that you're able to take this grace from this terrifying experience and not fear.

So much love and light to you and yours and do give Darin and extra tight big hug for me. What a swell guy you've got, what a blessing.

Love you.
Heidi Ann said…
Oh, my gosh, Heather - what a frightening experience that must have been. When I was reading the part about Siri sitting with her head in Mikie's lap, tears were welling up in my eyes. Thank goodness everything turned out the way it did.
The river is wild, indeed.
omg, that was so scary just reading i can't imagine the terror of being there. the river is a beautiful but scary thing, for sure. i tend to avoid it with my kids because of that fear. so glad your brother, darin and the dog were all okay. is your brother mikie the one who was supposed to be in your house when it burned down? you beatty's are lucky!
Krauss og Fugli said…
I'm so happy everyone is ok, you have a brave and wonderful family. Can't wait to see you in August, much love.
Missa said…
OH MY GOD. Heather, wow, I don't even know what to say. That was gut wrenching to read. I'm so so so glad that every one was ok in the end. I can't even imagine how scary it must have been for all involved! You and your beloveds are blessed to have made it through this crazy experience unscathed, not to mention blessed to have one another. What a brave man you've got yourself! Also, like Milla pointed out, I'm so glad you were able to come out of the experience, hearts open with love rather than closed in fear <3
Hoodoo Voodoo said…
Oh Heb, my heart was pounding the entire time I read, and I have a tear literally streaming down my cheek right now. I can't imagine being there. Having to hold and comfort baby Sylvan and imagine the terror in pops' heart and in Darin's and in Mikie's. And in sweet, grateful Siri's. Thank the gods above everyone is alright. What a horrific and haunting situation. Love you! Love you all!
Sadie Rose said…
oh my god, how scary!! so trippy - i am so glad you are all together and whole and happy... thank you for sharing the story. i cannot even imagine the adrenaline and heartbeats that must have been happening through all of that.

blessings ~
ashley said…
Ohh those pictures are haunting- almost foreshadowing such a scary event. I can't imagine what it would be like if Darin didn't feel Mikie's fingers at that moment?! Or if they got pulled in too?! I can hardly breathe thinking about being trapped under that white pummeling brick of froth, wondering if you would ever make it out, which way is up, does anyone know I'm here?

My brother does search and rescue in these rivers (including bucks bar and happy valley) all the time, and often tells me of tales like these- the endings are hardly ever good.

I am so happy that Darin and Zack are so courageous. I am so happy that Siri is just a sweet little thing, light enough to float on and bounce off of the sharp rocks jutting out of the river. I'm relieved that your family has a story to tell rather than a loved one to mourn! Long live Mikie...and Siri!
Brittan said…
wow, my heart was pounding reading that. so happy to hear that everyone is okay. what a story to have in your arsenal.

also picnic at hanging rock is one of my favorite movies of all time.
AlphaBetsy said…
Wow... that had my heart beating hard and my breath catching just reading it. I am so glad that everyone is okay after such a harrowing ordeal. Hugs to Darrin for being a hero. And hugs to you all for the scare.
Lou Smith said…
What a bunch of Heroes!
My heart swells to read this - nothing like a brush with death to bring the beauty of life into sharp focus.
With admiration and love x
mo marie said…
with tears in our eyes as we read this story (Gus and I) we were so happy to know this story ended well. I just returned from a week in the woods and I feel that I know what it's like to come face to face with death. We are so happy to know mikie is okay and so is Siri. The night before I left for my hike, I got news that her brother passed away due to parvo. It broke my heart and almost broke it again to know that another sweet pup might be in danger and your sweet brother too. So thankful things turned out okay. The moments of life that are so precious. It puts everything into perspective. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story. So glad everyone was okay. Love and sunshine always~
mo and gus and the chocolate lab family*
Nicky said…
Woah, You totally had me there in the moment! :( So glad to hear everything went well. Crazy that you "jumped back on the horse" making peace with the water and stayed to hang out. It was probably important for everyone involved. Stay safe! :D
Amanda said…
Whew! Thankful everyone is okay. That was streeful even to read...let alone experience.
Amy Beatty said…
man what a day!! your pictures and words describe the whole frightening experience. even though I was there this post totally brought back those gut wrenching, heart in my stomach feeling and this time added tears - which in the moment were not there. So scary that one moment was all fun and games and the next almost death. I don't know what would have happened if Darin was not there and Zack. I don't even want to think about it. that was much to close a call. i feel so blessed that we were all able to walk out of there. talk about blessings xo
AdieSpringB said…
Well honey, I kind of feel bad that I hadn't heard this story yet. I knew that it had happened, but we haven't got to talk about it and Mom didn't tell me any details. All I know is that I am so grateful that I read the story here, first. Your words are so carefully and perfectly placed and there are tears streaming down my face. I think your blog is the closest way I could understand what happened. I am so very very very grateful to Darin's quick action. Oh my god it just all sounds so scary. I have been down to the Yuba every day this week and it is the most fierce it has ever been while I have been swimming in it. I kind of like it, it makes it a bit more exciting... it doesn't seem that scary, but the force of the water is amazing and I am extremely cautious. I am so glad this story ended happily on all ends, with sweet brave Siri and with crazy strong brave Mikie. And again, I am so grateful to your words so that I can kind of get closer in my mind to the severity of the situation that day and perhaps understand any sort of epiphanies of love that went on in all your hearts. I love you all, can't wait to see ya. And camp with ya!
Celynne said…
Wow, that's quite a thing to go through. I'm so glad to hear everyone is okay. What brave, good men you know! As frightening as it can be though, it's good to know that death is always near, because it makes you cherish the wonderful moments all the more.

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