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Posts Tagged ‘nomads’

I am sitting here with a fresh cup of coffee next to my laptop, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, curled up next to me, the tree lights twinkling happily, and the heater humming. Life, in this moment, is good. That’s all we have really, the moment we are occupying. Boiling some eggs for breakfast, I noticed the windows were fogging up. Another chilly morning in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Always on extreme weather days, whether the thermometer registers high or low, I think of the disenfranchised people. The forgotten people, as I often think of them. Alone, shivering in the cold on a street corner or back alley. Outside, with no place to go and hope most likely not filling their cup. So many of them seem to have animals at their side. I have to assume these furry companions also have no homes to go to or warm beds to sleep in. Makes me think of the movie “Down and Out in Beverly Hills”. Nick Nolte played a homeless man who’s dog, in the opening scenes, abandons him for a lady walking down the street with more promising circumstances.

A long time back I wrote about being without a home or finances for a two week period in my life. I had family I could have called, but pride kept me from dialing their numbers. For two weeks my ex-husband and I lived in our car in Washington state. He had a job, so our future wasn’t bleak, but the present was definitely something we had to deal with. Many people who have lost their homes or for whatever reason found themselves without means, don’t have that option waiting for them. It is difficult to get a job if you have no address, no access to a computer or device, and nowhere to clean up and prepare for an interview. That time in my life made a permanent imprint on me. Never have I felt so vulnerable or unprotected. We had a case of Vienna sausage a work buddy had given my husband, a jug of cheap white wine (one must have some concessions), several large bottles of water, and an assortment of packaged cheese and hot salami packets. Not exactly a banquet. Though there was some money in our pockets, the job we’d driven up to Washington to work on had been postponed. This meant we had to conserve what resources we had for gas, and a hotel room here and there to clean up in before my husband was to report to work. Thankfully, the trees were just beginning to change color in the northwest, so though the mornings were brisk, the days were still comfortable and being outside not yet a dangerous place to be.

Each night we would find a nook or cranny off road to park the car. Using each other for warmth, we would huddle under our blankets and get as much sleep as the uncomfortable car seats would allow. One night, we found a cutaway on a rural road and pulled in under the trees for the night. With no moon out that night, the darkness swallowed us up. Though we could see lights on the hillside coming from a farmhouse, not much else was visible. My husband, a veteran of many long night shifts, could go to sleep standing up in the corner. For me, sleep often eluded me until the wee hours. This particular night, the black sky was alive with an unbelievable array of stars. The view, to understate, was spectacular. Looking out beyond the fence line beyond the front of the car, I kept getting the eerie sensation something was looking back. I remember feeling the hairs crawl up the back of my neck. Looking back, I think the more prudent thing to do in that situation would have been to lock the doors and waken my husband. Being me, and rarely a fan of the prudent choice, I grabbed the large flashlight on the floor of the back seat, and opened the car door. Approaching the barbed wire fence, it seemed as if it stretched all along the property on both sides. Engaging the flashlight, caught in the wide beam, were ten to twelve bovine faces looking back at me. Seemingly only mildly interested in the intruder, some chewed on blades of grass, while others just stared into the light with idle curiosity. Several of them let out low moos, so I responded with “Hello”.

Smiling, I went back to the car and settled back into my spot. In about a half an hour, I found myself in the same position I’d put the cows in, a flashlight beam interrupting my sleep. Both of us sat up in a panic. It was hard to see who was holding the beam with the light in our eyes. Rolling down the window, we were surprised to find a state trooper standing on the other side. It seemed the cattle rancher had recently had some problems with poachers, and seeing my beam flood the pasture, reported a prowler to the police. Whoops.

I can still picture the man standing there. For a moment he reminded me of Paul Bunyon. I wouldn’t have been in the least surprised to see the blue ox grazing not far away. Taller than average by a half, he wore a Smokey the Bear hat on his massive head, a neatly pressed blue uniform, and had a bow tie securing his shirt collar under his chin. Though kind, and not citing us for anything, he asked us politely to move on. I’m sure for most homeless people this is a familiar request.

In two weeks, our ordeal was over. Life for us went back to fairly normal. The local food bank gave us a most appreciated box of real food to see us through until our first paycheck. I remember asking the lady handing me the box how I could repay her. She said simply, “pay it forward”. That is why I have volunteered for the food ministry for the last eight years. My way of paying back a kindness.

If you see a street person, take the time to smile or say “good morning”. You never know their story, or what could happen to put you in their situation.

Have a nice weekend. Stay warm.

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