“El Nino” is a Punk
We’re on our way home when the text comes in. “Be REALLY careful driving.” It’s from our neighbor, Claudio, aka “Dad.”
He was nice enough to watch the dogs while Natalie and I went up to the San Diego airport to drop off my friend Sherri who came to visit. But since this is the second time he’s cautioned us today, I can tell he’s pretty worried.
“Why is everyone so freaked out by the rain?” I ask Natalie, bewildered as we make our way back toward the border.
“Oh, it’s just Californians” she explains matter-of-factly. “They’re not used to driving in it.”
Growing up in Alabama and Louisiana, rain was often part of everyday life. But here in SoCal and Baja California, it’s an anomaly and apparently something that causes a lot of concern and traffic accidents.
“But it’s just rain,” I say.
“It’s like how Southerners react to snow,” she counters.
Immediately I have a flash back of my first time driving in the snow in Virginia. When I misjudged the time it would take to slow down and make a turn and how I wasn’t able to. How my car skidded right up over the curb and directly onto the main road – which by the grace of God somehow had no on-coming traffic at that moment.
“Well, I guess that makes sense,” I acknowledge.
But inwardly I still think the reaction to rain (people not leaving their houses and being afraid to drive anywhere) is a bit over the top. I mean, it’s just a little water people.
We cross over into Mexico and then traffic comes to a stop. We’ve come to expect exceedingly long wait times heading into the U.S., but coming into Mexico is usually smooth sailing. Until today.
We inch along for about 30 minutes chalking it up to nothing more than some wicked rush-hour traffic until I see it: a section of the road that is completely covered in water and the wake of cars that are haphazardly trying to pass through it.
It’s hard to tell how deep the water is but it’s completely covering the wheels of most of the cars, which makes me thankful we’re in an SUV.
After safely crossing this “shallow river” we continue on the main road where I began to really appreciate Claudio’s concern for our safety. Turns out “El Nino” is no joke. And also that Mexican infrastructure is not made for substantial rain.
Muddy water pooled along the edges of the lanes makes hydroplaning a serious threat and newly deposited boulders strewn across the road have me concerned about landslides.
Just when we make it back to our house safely we get the news. We expected that the skylight in our entryway would be leaking (which has happened before and why we keep a spare bucket nearby).
But in addition, all the excessive rain that has saturated the ground has seeped through a crack in the concrete walls completely flooding my bathroom and the utility closet.
When we talk to friends and neighbors later we hear similar reports; flooded houses and people stranded because of impassable, muddy roads. Even the beach where Natalie and I run is a mess. Massive waves took out some of the wooden umbrellas and tables and trash is strewn all along the sand.
Needless to say, I now understand the impact a “little rain” can have here. And I also think “El Nino” deserves a spanking for all the havoc he’s wreacked.
But more than anything I’ve come to a greater respect and appreciation for water.
On one hand we are surrounded by it – the Pacific ocean is literally right off our back patio. And on the other hand, we have to plan ahead to ensure we have what we need to live. You see, the water is not drinkable in Mexico. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you think about needing enough water for two adults and two dogs every day.
Before we left Virginia I purchased a top-of-the-line water filter that can basically take scummy pond water and make it potable.
It’s worked well, but it only filters about a gallon an hour. So, at least 6 times a day, I’m refilling the container, filling up our pitcher in the fridge and also allocating some water for the dogs.
If I fall behind in doing so, we run out. Which isn’t the end of the world, because we can always go to a “tienda” to buy some, but it does keep water at the forefront of my mind throughout my day.
In Mexico, I never leave the house without a water bottle. And when I go to the U.S. I always feel so grateful to have fresh, free water available at fountains in nearly every store – something I didn’t really appreciate before.
Two months into our time here, I’m pretty comfortable with the water situation. It’s been a long time since I’ve accidentally swallowed a big gulp after brushing my teeth (which always makes me feel sick – though whether it’s a physical or psychosomatic response, I’m not sure). Refilling the water filter is habitual these days and most of the time we have more than enough.
But beyond that, I’ve fallen in love…with the ocean.
It’s something I admire each day on my porch or through my dinning room windows. I love to gaze at the beauty of sunlight dancing on the waves like diamonds. I breathe in the ocean air, walk along it’s rocky beaches and run along it’s sandy ones. The sound of the crashing waves has become a part of my life, the rhythm as natural as breathing to me, the sound calming my spirit and lulling me to sleep each night.
Since November, I’ve enjoyed the presence of the ocean. But last week, in honor of a new year and my friend Sherri’s birthday, I opted for a more tangible experience –completely immersing myself in it.
For the last decade, nearly every January, I’ve had people invite me to do the “Polar Plunge” in Virginia Beach. And every year I’ve politely declined. Maybe because I’m a chicken, but also because running into freezing cold water in the middle of winter sounds miserable.
But this January I took the plunge on my own volition. See the video below.
Yes, it was a physical plunge (which wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and was actually quite refreshing). But more importantly, and on a much deeper level, I believe it was symbolic of a spiritual plunge. A willingness to go into deeper waters. To embrace a little discomfort. To explore more of who God is and the world He’s created. And to experience what I might otherwise just admire from afar.
On this “Great Enlivening,” I sense God calling me beyond the comfort and security of the shore. He’s asked me to get out of the boat and leave behind my life raft. To be completely dependent on Him. Which, in all honestly, is a bit scary.
I’ve seen the power of the waves crashing and the fierceness with which they can cause destruction. I’ve questioned whether or not I have the skills to swim in the midst of the inevitable storms I’ll face.
Yet, God continues to tell me to trust Him. That it’s not about my ability but my obedience. That if I listen to His still, small voice, He will sustain me, tell me which wave to ride and when to dive deep.
And also, that if I’m willing to step out on faith, I’ll get to experience the thrill of walking on water.