Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A MID-MORNING NECESSITY in Napa finds me racing westward across the floor of the Sacramento Valley. Seventy-five miles behind me, the sun has crept over the summit of the Sierra. The season’s first drenching rain occurred yesterday and extended into the evening. This morning’s rays work to slightly warm the air and dissipate the season’s earliest Tule fog.

Life had dealt Auntie DeVonne a bad hand. An internal infection needed to be staved before an operation could repair the faulty heart valve. The abscess, however, wouldn’t respond to antibiotics and the infection’s growth now inhibited respiration. During the storm last night, DeVonne “coded.” Something much more invasive was necessary. But what of the weakened heart? According to the surgeon, Auntie’s circumstance was “like being on the third floor of a house where the first floor was totally involved in flames. You can wait around or you can jump out the window. I’ve got the net.”

There would not be time for breakfast on the road this morning. Or pictures.

COUNTY ROAD 31 beelines west from Davis. Once out of town the farmland looks laser flat. In the slightest depressions, cool air pools. Clinging, earth-bound sheets of gossamer fog mark these low spots: rimmed silver on top by the rising sun, but filled with icy daggers as the rural road slices through. Even with the heaviest of riding gloves the chill, like an x-ray, finds each of the 54 bones in my hands and tries to freeze them – and their connecting tissue – solid.

Under the broadening expanses of clear sky, yesterday’s rainfall begins a fermentation process on fresh wheat stubble in the neighboring tracts. The air assumes a sugary fragrance, as the landscape outside the fog pools turns golden. A field of rotting watermelon smells particularly pungent and rich. As does the windrow of eucalyptus planted several yards south of the pavement just beyond an irrigation canal. The BMW’s on-board thermometer reads 48 then 50 then 52 degrees. My black leather jacket absorbs some early morning warmth and an involuntary shiver transfers it to my body.

Straight ahead, the lower reaches of the Vaca Hills of the Coast Range bask in this just-past-dawn early light. But the season’s first storm had been significant. Up the mountain, fresh moisture soaks the top few inches of soil and the lower few feet of atmosphere. Vaporous wisps fill the east-facing hollows of seasonal creeks that may have come back to life. At the crest, a bounteous pure white blanket of moisture lay peeking over, so much like disheveled bedclothes pushed back against a footboard after a raucous and intense night of passionate and long-awaited frolic.

Sure enough, once over the little nameless pass and into the Monticello Valley where now rests Lake Berryesa, the sun’s work has not begun. The road enters the bank of fog, perhaps never to exit this day. The cold x-rays work against my hands to stiffen them and render them numb all the way to Napa. But the recent warmth and sweetness of the Sacramento Valley at dawn lingers and comforts me.

AND CONTINUES to do so as I sit outside the ICU, awaiting word.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. [Four days later...] "Auntie DeVonne" is by no means out of the woods. I'm afraid the world seems a bit dark and cold to her right now.

  2. [Six days later...] "Auntie DeVonne" has been intubated since surgery. Tomorrow, it comes out. If she cannot sustain herself, she has requested that the tube NOT be reinserted.

  3. [Eight days Later...] Removal did not occur yesterday as the blood chemistry was not right when support personnel slowly turned down the oxygen being fed into the tube. Waiting two to three more days to give lungs a further chance to clear. Then: try, try again.

    Very, very good doctor is ministering not only to "Auntie DeVonne" but to immediate family as well.