Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 12

Today we are in Garden Valley, Idaho.

It is cold and wet and beautiful and I wish I lived here.

This part of Idaho is beautiful, lush and green and so, so peaceful. It rained hard yesterday so today it smells amazing, like pine and sage and rushing water.

We are paddling the easiest section of river. A class one, no real dangers, just floating, enjoying the sights, letting my teenager learn to paddle on safe water.

Later . . .

I am sitting in our boat with my husband and my two youngest children. My daughter is in our one man inflatable. We float around a tremendous pine tree overturned in the river and see a girl with only her nose and terrified eyes above the water. She was in a kayak and overturned in the branches of the pine tree. In river speak, it's called a strainer. She is snagged on the edge of it, flipped and pinned nearly upside down.

Three kayakers are trying to help her but even on a flat section of water, the current is powerful.

Suddenly we are in a nightmare. Down stream, my daughter eddy's out against a bank of cliffs. She knows a strainer is dangerous.  My husband grabs another paddlers boat and runs up stream to help the kayaker. I drag my own boat with my five and ten year old to the shore, my eyes jumping from my husband, to the kayaker, to my daughter.

I feel small and powerless.

My children and I pray. What else can we do?

Then I wait, wondering if this girl is going to drown before my children's eyes.

The kayaker screams as the men try to rip her out of the boat.

"She's slipping."
"Don't let her go under."
"Grab her."

I've never seen anyone die before.

But then I see her white helmet. She is in a man's arms.

My husband paddles her trembling body to the shore. Our friend Amy and I tend to her.

I wrap a paddler jacket around her shoulders, give her water, stroke her long dark hair.

Her lips are blue, she's badly bruised, shaking, but she is alive.

Even later . . .

I see the kayaker at camp. She the thick bruises on her thighs are darkening. I want to hug her like I'd hold my daughter. But when I see her, I hesitate. She doesn't know me, after all, I am just a stranger on the river.

So I make pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, three bean salad and strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and offer to feed her and her rescuers. She doesn't have an appetite but her rescuers gladly accept my offer. One of them has two servings of shortcake.

We are all alive.

Today is a good day.