We’re in the middle of a drought here in California. So when the weather forecasters predict a big storm, we have to acknowledge that “we need the rain,” and can’t justify even a little whining about it. Even so, when heavy rain pelted the roof this morning, I thought about staying in, drinking some nice hot tea, maybe wrapping a few presents, and skipping the Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety march I told myself I needed to attend. I’d committed to it publicly (on Facebook, no less) and to a host of people I’ve been talking to about such things lately. I thought about staying home as I got ready to go, then decided that if I didn’t go and walk–rain or no rain– I’d feel as though I’d let myself down. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a march. It felt like the right thing to do.
As I pulled out of the garage, the rain was coming down hard. Like everyone else in the state, I hadn’t driven in a rainstorm in what seems like years. I proceeded with caution as I got on the freeway heading over to Marin County where the march was taking place. At one point, the rain made it difficult to see the white lines on the road. I couldn’t even see the car ahead of me, and assumed the Little Old Lady Driver position: hunched over the wheel, straining to see what lay ahead. As the rain slowed a bit, I was able to see cars to the right and just ahead plow through pools of water on the road, sending huge plumes several feet high on either side of them. Even with driving slowly, I felt the car do a little skid. I was barely doing 40 miles an hour.
I held on tight to the steering wheel.
I passed a pick-up truck that had apparently hydroplaned into the concrete divider. A car had pulled over to the right shoulder, lights flashing; the driver clutched a phone. Concentrating on the road ahead, I kept going–hoping to arrive safely at my destination.
The rain kept hammering the cars as I approached the San Rafael bridge. The wind kicked up, and I made sure that I didn’t keep pace with other cars. If the wind knocked me out of my lane, I didn’t want to be too close to anyone else. Finally,off the bridge, I rounded the curve past San Quentin and made my way to the start of the march.
I put my raincoat on over my orange hoodie and grabbed my umbrella. We were asked to wear orange, the color adopted by those marching for gun safety all across the country this weekend. I also brought one of my orange Giants rally towels, figuring it might come in handy. I made my way over to the group, which had gathered already.
With all the umbrellas, hoods and hats covering faces, I couldn’t spot the friend I thought I might be able to find in the crowd. When the march started, I just joined the line and figured it would be a thoughtful, solo experience. I’m no good at judging numbers in a crowd, but it was a decent turnout on a day when I’m sure plenty of willing participants were discouraged by the weather. A hardy band of kids, parents, and dogs–wearing orange and ready to roll–off we went through the town.
A little way into the march, a woman materialized next to me.
She hadn’t been able to find her friend either, saw I was alone, and thought she might as well strike up a conversation. We began chatting about this and that and then the chanting started: No more silence! Stop gun violence! She had a good, strong voice and got things rolling. A man walking behind us took up the chant and we joined in, but paused here and there to talk about other things. We laughed as the wind blew our umbrellas inside out, one after the other. We learned a little about each other’s children, talked about Spotlight, which she had just seen, and discussed what it’s like to stop coloring your hair–which I did over fifteen years ago: things women talk about on a march when you are not chanting. She phoned her friend, decided where to join up with her along the route, and offered to let me hitch a ride in her friend’s car back to where the march had started.
The march took us through the heart of Larkspur and into Corte Madera. Several drivers slowed down and honked their approval along the way. At the end, we were treated to hot chocolate and coffee at Cafe Verde, and I had an opportunity to sit a while and talk to my two new friends. It turns out Donna, the woman who first walked with me, was curious about my hair. I know how that is–when I was letting my color grow out, I often looked for women who had done it, evaluating how mine might look one day. So, I have my hair–and a shared sense of needing to DO something to promote gun safety and stop the violence–to thank for allowing me to make new friends while sharing an unforgettable march in the rain.
Will the march make a difference? It did to me. Who knows what will come of these demonstrations across the country this weekend.
And at the end of our time together today, the sun came out and blue sky peeked through the clouds. On the drive home, I reflected on the day’s events.
The road ahead was clear.