It started falling last night – rain – more rain – moistening parched places everywhere. It is still coming down, those familiar tings against the roof, the skylight, that have disrupted a few morning plans tied to the sun. The rain is a welcome excuse to read or write or do nothing but listen.
Recently, I was driving up I-5 in Southern California under the usual long-term-drive bubble. Everything was as it should be—a few vehicles in front of me, a few behind. The morning air in the dry and golden valley was promising another sweltering day, though I sat cool and comfortable in my air-conditioned vehicle. Then 70-mph time swung into slow motion surrealism as the semi ahead of me began to derail, snaking into the left lane, ultimately pushing a car off the road while the cars behind it shifted from side to side. I was sure the truck was going to follow along the same trajectory, ending up in the divider zone. The next thing I knew – in slow motion – the long vehicle tipped and landed on its side in the middle of the freeway. I found out later it blocked traffic for over an hour, though I never managed to uncover any mention of injuries or death.
The Buddhist idea that “everything changes except change itself” (also attributed to Heraclitus and John F. Kennedy) has certainly been rebranded to capture the modern imagination. People are constantly coming up with ways to express it in writing these days. And I have sat through a number of earnest conversations that swerved into this sentiment, only to find myself batting about its various nuances.
It feels satisfying to talk about this stuff—in theory. We can all nod along, “Yeah, I know that one.” And we sit there figuring this brilliant conclusion should make life’s surprises just a little bit easier. Yet there still comes a time when we have to ride inside a car that is shifting from side to side, only to wonder if it is going to hit an overturned semi. And no matter what happens, we have to go on from there.
I was lucky. I was able to pull over to the shoulder, hit my flashers, and safely dial 911, even as a line of cars began to file in front of me and around the wreck. Meanwhile, a number of men climbed onto the side of the truck to check on the driver. I told the dispatcher what I had seen, and she eventually released me with an assurance help was on the way. Once I ascertained there was nothing more for me to do, I got into the line of cars crawling along the shoulder and continued traveling.
As I drove, I was surprised to note how calm I felt. A few hours later, though, I experienced a round of nerves that called for a lunch stop. In the end, I was able to make it to my family gathering on time.
The rain is still coming down. It is bringing back my newly planted Shasta daisy. Last week the lone plant endured a two-day drive up highway 101. Before I left, my brother and I took my mother over to the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, so that she could buy the start. Apparently, Luther Burbank – the world-renowned horticulturist – spent 17 years developing what to his mind was the ideal daisy. This variety “would have very large pure-white flowers, a long blooming period, and do well as both a cut flower and garden plant.”1. He worked with four different daisies before he finally introduced his own beauty in 1901. Burbank named the flower after Mount Shasta.
My mother wanted me to plant my daisy start in Oregon, because she thought it would thrive up here. What she likes about Shasta daisies is the fact that a single daisy can quickly propagate into a whole bucketful in a short amount of time. They don’t need much attention, especially in places where it rains regularly.
When I first arrived, I was afraid I was going to have to dash her hopes for a satisfying daisy herd. The already scraggly plant – sans bloom – quickly and dramatically wilted in the new climate that was shifting between glaring sunshine and cool nights. It looked almost dead. I rushed to baby it, wondering if I should even bother getting to the garden store. I grabbed the watering can and gave it a soak. I took it off the deck and placed it on the lawn, away from anything that reflected light. I was worried the lawnmower guy would drive over it before I could buy a shiny blue pot and a bit of earth.
Now the start is looking perky in the summer rain. A lone bloom appears to be on the way.
- Shasta Daisy. Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, 2013. Web. 24 Jul. 2014.