Purple Rain

Mike and I went to the Greater Houston Scout Fair on Saturday but didn’t get to stay long because it began to rain on us. Afterward we took a little tour of Houston, first driving into the Upper Kirby area and then through River Oaks. We had nothing pressing to do so we continued to meander along Allen Parkway and into downtown Houston. From there we drove along Navigation past my mom’s childhood home, around the turning basin of the Ship Channel and then down Broadway all the way to Hobby Airport.

Ironically I pointed out how placid Buffalo Bayou was on Saturday and thought of my mother’s stories of swimming in its waters when she was young. She often told me that the banks of that waterway were filled with native trees and plants and creatures of every sort back then. She and her brothers thought of it as a kind of paradise. On Saturday I bemoaned the fact that so many of our bayous have been desecrated with concrete walls. Our once beautiful ribbons of water are more like drainage ditches that don’t always function as well as we would like. Mike and I had a brief discussion about Braes, White Oak, and Sims bayous and the memories that we had of them from our own youths. I thought of how wonderful it would be if we were to return those areas to their natural state, creating lovely parks for the citizenry to enjoy.

At the Ship Channel turning basin I mentioned that a high school friend of mine, Chris Nixon, had been a highly respected pilot, guiding barges and ships into one of the busiest ports in the country. We talked about the history of the east end and all of the changes that had taken place during our lifetimes. My grandfather had once worked on a big farm not far from where the commerce of the sea now reigns. It would be difficult for anyone to even imagine the acres of raw land dotted with wild native magnolia trees that once defined the east end of our city but that is what it was like long ago.

The rest of my weekend was rather unremarkable but I went to bed on Sunday night feeling content. I always enjoy taking a drive back in time and remembering the way things were before Houston was the fourth largest city in the country. It puts me in touch with who I am and from whence I came. When I awoke on Monday morning there was a driving rain outside my window. When I checked the news I learned that my beloved city was awash in water. Whole sections of town were flooding and the bayous that had appeared so tame on Saturday had become raging torrents. What a difference a few hours make!

I spent Monday trapped indoors, watching the drama of the floods unfold. It was heartbreaking to see so many people enduring misfortune. It was even worse to learn that some of my fellow Houstonians had died. It seemed inconceivable that the images that I was viewing were of many of the same places that I had passed on Saturday. I went to bed feeling anxious and worried for friends and family who were so close to the rising waters. I did not sleep well.

On Tuesday morning I awoke to even more distressing news. One of my former classmates, the very man of whom I had spoken on Saturday, had died. Chris Nixon was such a kind, brave and optimistic man. I felt a sadness tear through my heart when I learned of his passing. The only thing that helped me to accept that he was gone was to write about him and the optimism that he always displayed. Still with so much of humanity in Houston suffering I was not able to quell the growing sadness in my heart. It hardly seemed possible that our dear city and those of us who knew and loved Chris might bear so much tragedy. I went to bed feeling restless. I only slept because my mind was exhausted.

On Wednesday I contacted a friend who has been dealing with personal difficulties of her own. Her husband had a stroke shortly after the new year and she has been caring for him ever since. He is not doing particularly well and she has few breaks from nursing and feeding him. She is an angel but one who is very tired. She is far away from family and friends so she is mostly on her own. People have been kind to her but I suspect that she needs more. I felt impossibly powerless after my conversation with her. Once again sleep was not an easy escape to find.

I awoke this morning with a sense that the worst of this week had passed. I went to South Houston Intermediate and did a bit of math tutoring with some seventh and eighth graders there. My teacher friend, Rebecca, who has been absent for weeks while she underwent treatments for cancer has finally returned. She looked careworn but beautiful. She is on the mend and her students are so happy to have her back, as I am as well. My interlude at the school was positive and happy. I felt so much better even though I returned home in a pouring rain. The forecast was for sunny days tomorrow and Saturday. Perhaps, I thought, we have all turned a corner.

Now I have heard the news that Prince is dead. I am feeling gloomy once again. He was such an icon, my companion on so many of my walks around my neighborhood. His music enthralled me back in the eighties and I never grew weary of hearing him perform. He was a brilliant artist and a musical genius. He was still so young, only fifty seven years old. I’m still wondering how it can be that he is so suddenly gone. I feel am shocked and reeling once again.

If this week has taught me anything it is that I must seize every opportunity to really live and love. Somehow it seems wrong to wait until someone like my friend, Chris, has died to write a blog singing of his praises. I think he might have enjoyed knowing how wonderful we all thought he was before he was no longer with us. I so often get distracted by little annoyances over which I have no control. I forget to find the beauty in a single moment. I let time slip away when I might do better to give someone a call or dash off a note of encouragement to a person who is suffering. It is so much part of our human nature to lose sight of what is most important.

Possessions are here today, gone tomorrow. A single night of rain may be enough to wash them away. It is people who must be at the center of our waking thoughts. We have to be careful about putting off our good intentions, otherwise they may become regrets. Now is the perfect moment to do that one thing for someone. Today is “give a helping hand” day. Think of a person who could use a bit of cheer or maybe some assistance with a project. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a deserving individual who might appreciate your efforts. Just think of the power of goodwill if every person in the United States were to do one little thing today for someone else. Not even the force of a wall of water would be able to overcome the effect of our efforts.

It’s been a tough week and there are few guarantees that tomorrow will bring sunshine. We’ve got to make the best of the time we have. The rain has finally stopped and a lovely butterfly just fluttered past my window. Perhaps this is a sign that it’s time to draw together and to carry on. Find that special person to surprise. Don’t wait. The world changes overnight. We don’t want to be too late.


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