It has been raining in the Sonoran desert for the last few days. The dust is washed away and the seeds of spring flowers are receiving the good soaking that will bring them into bloom come March and April. Mt. Lemmon, seen from our windows, has a layer of snow but with the return of the sun it will sheet down the rock faces and chasms, glinting like distant waterfalls and rivers. We love to see snowpack on the mountains in the West, water stored for the water-starved here in the valleys.
In my last blog, “Swimming in Stew”, I wrote about my near drowning in a pond and being rescued by a young friend. The story is continued today in a different place, a few years later.
It is early spring, probably March, in Hamilton, Ontario. I am with a new boyfriend. His name is Gordon Nash and we are both innocents in the dating game especially since we met at an evangelical church and we are young, fifteen and sixteen years old. He is a poor, working class teenager like me, being raised by his father after his mother died a few years earlier. Gordon is not my dream boyfriend – he wears glasses, decent but utilitarian clothes and is not yet handsome in his gangly frame and boyish face. He is friendly and sociable though and he owns a little motorbike. Gordon is quite happy to take me for rides since he has a girl behind him, holding on tight. This is as close as we ever come. We never kissed although I wish we had since I at least owed him that.
Being Canadians, we were not deterred by snow or cold and had adapted so well to it that outings in winter were routine and enjoyed. On this day we are hiking part of the Hamilton escarpment which we call “the mountain”. Its equivalent would be a high, long mesa in the southwest. The escarpment is part of a huge limestone and shale formation running from New York state to Wisconsin and its most famous feature is Niagara Falls but there are many smaller falls that pour over its edge. Gordon and I are with another young couple at Websters Falls, one of the most popular in the area. I remember a fairly good snowpack as we followed a path below the falls, full of newly melted snow and cascading into the river below, moving with a fast and powerful current over the rocks.
Perhaps I wanted to distance myself from Gordon; perhaps I just wanted a closer look at the spectacular water running beside us. I started to walk to the edge of the ravine but my boots would not grip the wet snow and I started to slide down the embankment towards the river. I managed to stop a few feet away, half lying down in the snow and feeling the fear of clinging to a precipice from which I could not move unless it was over the edge. Gordon, gallant Gordon, seeing my dire circumstances, held onto a sapling and slid toward me with his hand extended and I was able to grasp it and be pulled to safety.
His was one of those purely selfless acts that people do for another in danger, in this case a teenage boy saving his girlfriend from a freezing and certain death in fast-moving water. I have searched my memory for any selfless act of bravery on my part and found none. As a former nurse I performed CPR on many a dying heart but I was never in any personal danger and it was not a choice but an expected part of my job.
I broke up with Gordon a short while later since my feelings could not melt for him. I don’t remember if I thanked him and I don’t know what happened to him but wherever you are, Gordon Nash, goodbye and thank you from the rivers of my heart.