Falling Limb

Someone once told me that we choose the weather for our own funerals–she said it as we sat in a church serving-room, waiting for a memorial to finish so we could dish out bountiful portions of numerous casseroles that sat, steaming.  Outside, it was a blustery spring day, cottonball clouds, swallowtail butterflies drifting by.

Yesterday, a winter day following the first big rainstorm of the season, my long-time neighbor Howie Ehret chose a double-rainbow day for his memorial service.  Out early to sample the creeks, which were dropping–sampling creeks as they fall is known as sampling the falling limb–I could only think that it was the kind of day Howie would have picked: full of energy, beauty, and motivatingly cold.  He was a man of commitment, honor, and devotion to family, country, and community, up early every day, and on the run until dinnertime.  I learned early on that if I called the house after 8 p.m., he’d be in bed so I shouldn’t even think about trying to reach him any later.

At the Agua Caliente bridge, the gauge read 11.4 feet.   A female merganser scared up from the bank and skidded onto the muddy stream.  In the bay trees, an Audubon’s warbler hopped branch to skinny branch.  I scooped a sample of creek water and drove farther down the watershed.  Branches of eucalyptus and oak had fallen and marked the edges of the road.  I collected a sample at the Leveroni Road bridge, where I had to use a silt-covered couch left by some older storm as a climbing aid to pull myself up the muddy bank from the water.  On the road back home, I saw drivers pulled off the road to photograph the double rainbow that ended in the vineyards.  The cover crops were all green.  I kept going–I had Howie’s service to attend.

At the memorial, after the spoken tributes, an honor guard saluted their fallen comrade with three rifle volleys and the showing of the colors.  We sang “Amazing Grace.”   It is a sort of grace, I see–the rising, and the falling.

USGS Gauge, Agua Caliente Creek, Sonoma Valley


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