This morning around 4:30 we were awakened by sirens screaming through the valley. Because we live relatively high in a valley, we hear sirens as they twist and turn, but these came closer and closer and finally stopped on the road above us and there were flashing lights, many flashing lights and I thought a neighbor's house must be on fire.
We threw our clothes on and rushed outside. My husband ran up to the street and was told by police to go back down and into the house, that he was "in the line of fire". You can imagine how that might feel, "in the line of fire". I drew back inside, though I kept opening the door and looking back outside into the dark lit by flashing lights. What was going on? We live on a rural, non-county maintained road. How did this many people end up here in what seemed the middle of the night?
We could hear the police yelling, "open the door", clearly to someone inside a vehicle, and this went on for quite a long time. They began to realize the person or persons inside must not understand English, and started asking if anyone spoke Spanish. I still find it hard to believe that police in CA do not know how to say "open the door" in Spanish. Then, we hear "puerta", and something about the dog patrol also being present. After time, they must have broken into the vehicle, as I heard unusual sounds, and then incredible sobbing. At first, I thought it was a child, but now I know it was a woman, a lone woman who didn't understand English. I still hear her sobbing. Her fear goes right through me and brings tears of compassion for her and the police, who also must have been affected at this point. What was going on? What had gone on? What triggered such response?
My husband was furious, feeling we were living in a police state, and, at this point, despite my objections, went storming up the road to find out what the # was going on. He could see a small U Haul truck and many police cars. He learned that the woman was being arrested because of a "refusal to yield", and that there had been a high-speed chase from Ross, which is a small community about ten miles away. I have no details. I saw flashing lights, heard voices, heard a woman sobbing, heard the voices of policemen who sounded young and caring.
What I realized though is that friends and I are in great discussion about our "end of life" rights. We read Katy Butler's book, Knocking On Heaven's Door. I am currently reading Kathleen Dowling Singh's wonderful book, The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older. I want to meet death wisely and I don't want to end up incontinent and unaware in a nursing home. I don't want to be a drain on my family, and yet, in all this concern about a possible future of my orchestration and choice, am I really present?
I live where many of us have the time, space, and luxury to worry about and discuss how we want to "die with dignity", but this morning I stood in my doorway hearing I might be in the "line of fire" and ordered to go inside, and I realized as clear as summer and winter light how many people on this planet live with that awareness every day and every night.
We read about it. We feel horrible about it, and yet, it isn't quite the same thing as knowing guns are drawn and ready to fire close to your own home, and in this case, over what?
Was this woman in a U haul a danger to us? I don't know what triggered it, what allowed the police to feel a high-speed chase was in order down one narrow road to the freeway and down other narrow roads to the obscure place where I live. What I feel happened is terror and fear, terror and fear on both sides, the woman and the police. We pay the police to protect us. How do they know what is threat, and what is not?
What I know is this. If this hadn't happened, I would have awakened, risen and sat on a meditation cushion with a blanket over me. My Insight Timer App on my phone would have been set to chime after 15, 20, or 30 minutes depending on the morning. That would have helped me, at least intention-wise, to be more "awake", more calm, resilient, perhaps even compassionate.
Instead I sit here, tears in my eyes, aware of the love we all share, and the fear. I am awake.