Saturday, July 31, 2010


The sun was just right that day, spread out across a clear blue sky reflecting back off the warmed water in the Russian River. Our friends Adam and JoHannah had invited us to spend some time with them in San Francisco. JoHannah had rented a house on the Russian River and it had plenty of room to add us on as guests. On that day at the beginning of July Adam was out kayaking,  JoHannah and Rick sat under an umbrella in a pair of red canvas lounge chairs, the kind with a hole sewn in to hold your glass of wine. Wine was plentiful but precious in Sonoma and JoHannah and Rick were no about to let a drop spill in the sand. JoHannah was Rick’s opposite when it came to worshipping the sun, she sat covered from the sun with a great floppy hat, Rick sat exposed and unprotected, burning away. If he didn’t think the rest of us would yell at him I think he would have slathered himself in baby oil and cooked himself to a pre-cancerous golden brown. At fifty-seven the fear of skin cancer or fine-line wrinkles no longer came up on his radar. The two of them sat, one with red and the other with white, sipping in between lengthy gossiping episodes and peals of laughter. But the story isn’t about them, it’s about  Emmy splashing away in the waist deep water of the river. In early-July you could ford the river at most any point. The water level rarely hit above my bathing suit’s waistband. Full submersion required falling backwards into the slow moving current that flowed from up river then down toward the Pacific Ocean. Growing from the river floor were water-worn limbs of trees long since dead raising their knurled fingers out toward the sun. Their thumbs and index fingers providing destinations for children to swim to, climb and dive back into the warm comforting water of the river. Rick had finally succumbed to the heat and had gone out to join Emmy cooing his toasted soul. The two of them had half waded, half swam out to one of the few places in the river where the current had worn a hole deep enough for them to submerge themselves and swim. The drop-off was a congregating spot for kids equipped with its own dead branch diving board.
Another family with three small boys had camped out on the opposite bank of the river from our rental house. The parents had spread out an old blanket laden with all their beach paraphernalia while the boys played games of dare and chase in the water. The two older boys were around seven and nine. The younger one was closer to five. Emmy moved out of the drop-off where she had been swimming so the boys could have full rein of the dead tree in the middle of the hidden pool. As the older boys swam and chased each other through the rippling water you could feel their excitement through their squeals of laughter and witness their joy through the smiles that formed under their glistening black hair. The five year old was desperate to mimic his older siblings. He splashed his arms and tried his best to keep up with the other two while the parents watched from the safely of their blanket on the opposite shore. The excitement of the two older boys became too much for their younger brother and soon he was wading and splashing his way to their king of the mountain perch. You could reach the dead limb from the back where the height of the river was only a few inches over his head but once you jumped off to the other side you were in the deep murky unknown. The older boys would tumble off their nature given diving board, pop up and swim to where they could once again run through the water. The littlest boy finally grabbed onto the dead branch and pulled himself up the diving position. With death defying verve he leapt in cannonball position into the depths of the other side. You could see the look of accomplishment quickly vanish from the little boys face as his eyes popped from under the water and his little fingers slapped at the sunlit surface. His parents six sense of knowing a child is in danger, rose from their blanket on the side of the river. Rick was still in the water and the closest to the little boy. The kid was panicking as he dropped below the water again his hands trying to grab on to the waves as if they had the ability to transform from a liquid to a solid. His mother, too far away to help, began pleading for someone to help. Rick swam over to the boy but the boy’s flaying was too much for Rick’s swimming and rescuing abilities. Emmy was standing on the edge of the drop-off.
Rick shouted to her, “Hon, you’re going to have to help. I can’t get him in.” The boy’s eyes had filled with terror. His little hands pummeling Rick and the water. Emmy swam out to the two of them. She grabbed the boy and he wrapped his arms around her. There was no panic in Emmy. She instinctively knew what to do. She was so confident in her ability to hold the boy and swim him to safety. It didn’t take her long before she had swum out of the drop-off and was able to walk the boy to the safety of his mom. All afternoon the parents took every opportunity to thank her.
On that day Emmy’s karma rose to automatic entry to heaven. Not everyone is given the opportunity to save a life so early in their own life. Her destiny is blessed.

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