I go into the garage, which is lit, approach the car, and peer inside.
“Are you okay?” I ask Aussie. It’s 11 o’clock at night and Aussie has been on the back seat of the car since 8 pm. She doesn’t thump her tail, but she seems calm. Outside it’s thundering, lightning and raining big time.
The back seat of my 12-year-old Prius is Aussie’s safe place. When storms begin, I go to the garage on the other side of the kitchen door and open the back door of the car. She jumps in and stays there. I leave the door open so that whenever she feels ready, she can jump out of the car and return inside the house through the dog door.
We seem to be drowning here in Massachusetts since the summer solstice. In 21 years of living here, I don’t remember such a stormy summer. The Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers have flooded. With the windows open upstairs, you can hear the smaller Sawmill River below our house gushing more fiercely than it does in April, when the snows melt. I love the sound of it, like I love the sound of rain, but their comforting commotion is now drowned out by thunder and downpours that turn the earth into mud and crops and flowers into mush. So far, the roots of the trees have held on, but branches are often on the road.
Last night, Aussie was in her safe place from 8 pm on. When I went to bed Henry joined me (he’s almost always with my housemate, Lori, during the night), his small body shaking and shivering. The thunder was deafening, matched only by the waterfall from the skies. He continued to tremble violently half the night, scratching at my arm till I opened up the blanket and let him snuggle underneath.
This morning I went down at 6:30 to find Aussie back in my office. I had breakfast out, and when I returned, she was nowhere. Oh no, I thought, did she go through the fence and up to the road again, frantic? There had been rain and a few rumblings. I found her inside my car in the garage, door closed. She, at 55 pounds, had jumped through the open window to get to her safe spot on the back seat.
A safe place. Where is mine?
Last night I put the fan on and dove under the blanket when the storm hit. It went on and on for several hours; Lori said it was a hell of a light show. I don’t watch. I’ve never felt safe during thunderstorms. I think to myself that the great biblical flood, when Noah built his ark, may have started this way, with rain and even more rain and even more rain. Everybody assumed it would stop. It had to stop, didn’t it? But it didn’t. Only the forward-thinking Noah managed to safeguard his family and all species with his ark.
How forward-thinking are we? The effects of climate change are here way earlier than even the wariest of scientists had anticipated, and we call it storms, we call it fires, we call it record-breaking heat. It’s all those things, and lots, lots more.
I’m sure Noah’s neighbors, once they realized the extent of the deluge, begged him to let them board his ark. Looking at all the animals, insects, and birds that were boarding, they must have said: “But we’re family, aren’t we? We’re your neighbors and friends. We’re human beings, like you. Do they count more than we do?”
Noah saved the earth by saving all species. It was an all or nothing endeavor, not limited to just us. And he wasn’t even Buddhist.
There will be more storms tonight. Tomorrow night, too, and all day Sunday when we have our annual zendo party. I’ll open the car door for Aussie so that she doesn’t have to jump through an open window and leave a light on in the garage. Henry will tremble violently and will dive under a bed or a blanket. But where is my safe place?