Monday, November 10, 2008

Common Decency

He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm... Indeed, these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power, who can understand?  --Job 26:12, 14

The conclusion of the election process seems like a natural break--a perfect place to refocus and finish journaling our vacation lessons. Now let's see...where were we? Oh yes--we had just arrived at the vast, powerful, massive piece of creation known as The Pacific Ocean! (Which is just the mere edge of His ways??? The small whisper we hear of Him...? Wow!)

My husband and I have each lived a small part of our lives on the ocean, and wanted to help our kids take in and savor their "very last first time" there. We coached them in safety concerns before we left the hotel, then borrowed a bit from an idea set forth in James Michener's novel, Space. He says to first look at the stars with the naked eye, then binoculars, and then, finally, a telescope, pacing oneself to enjoy each layer of revelation...  

Our kids started first with just a glimpse of the ocean (easy to accomplish since it was foggy). Once we parked, they stood for a moment just outside our vehicle to take in the panoramic view, first scents, and sounds. It was nearly high tide, so the small dunes with strange new vegetation were more impressive than the slim offerings of the beach (just a few broken shells and no tide pools). After a bit of dune exploration, we approached the frothy outskirts of the tumbling, churning waves. First we snuck up just close enough to run away from them. Finally, we clasped hands tightly and tackled them head on!

What ecstatic fun! What energy!  What freezing temperatures!  After racing and jumping waves at Samoa Beach for most of a very gray morning, we were nearly hypothermic. We changed clothes (no Far, we did NOT need scissors!--we held up damp beach towels to change behind), crowded into our vehicle and turned the heat on full blast, and relished the warmth as we meandered a few miles north of Eureka, CA, to have fresh seafood for lunch at a merchant's marina cafe'. After ordering hot drinks all around, I went to wash. In the women's restroom there is a sign that reads:

"California state law and COMMON DECENCY dictate that all employees wash their hands before returning to work."

The sign is probably common to the people who work there, but I found it refreshing!  ;~) Common decency... Isn't that really just another term for love? Makes me think of God's second greatest commandment: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Even washing our hands is a loving thing to do, for others as well as ourselves!

After lunch we played at two warmer, sunny beaches before meandering through the gentle giants in Redwood National Forest on our way north to Crescent City. We arrived at suppertime, still shivering but also glowing.  As we checked into the motel where we had reservations, my father noticed a little sign on the counter:

"You must report any pets traveling with you. There is an extra charge for small dogs.  Note: California state law prohibits leaving pets in vehicles."

Another "sign of love?" When I called to make our reservations I was asked if we'd be bringing any pets, but it never dawned on me, a month ahead of time from here in MN, that my parents out west might bring their two Australian Shepherds with them.  Even if it had, it wouldn't have dawned on me that I needed to notify the motel. For my whole life my parents have either found caretakers or traveled with their dogs as circumstances dictated, but they've never lodged them in a motel. They provide padded mats for the dogs to lie on during driving or sleeping at night; bring along their leashes, dishes, food, and a supply of clean water for them; make frequent stops to meet their needs; and always leave the topper's windows open for adequate ventilation. My parents care for their pets as responsibly as they care for me, but they do not lodge them in motel rooms...

We reported our pets to the desk clerk, and then we were ALL in a real pickle. The dogs were too big to be allowed into the motel room, the law prohibits lodging them in the vehicle, and it was too late to cancel our reservation without having to pay full price for the rooms. Besides, there was no place else to go. The clerk resolved the issue by charging us the extra pet cleaning deposit even though the pets wouldn't be in the room, and telling my father to park in an out-of-the-way space in the parking lot, make the dogs wait for their evening constitutional until after dark, and hope the dogs didn't bark and attract anyone's attention. After getting our wet, sandy clothes washing in the Guest Laundry and taking a quick hot shower to warm up, I found my father in the parking lot taking care of his dogs. It broke my heart when his face crinkled in frustration and his voice cracked when he spoke, "I feel like such a criminal, sneaking around out here!"

Later we learned that such laws are not limited to California. It is illegal to leave pets in vehicles overnight in our state, too. In my world, animals have never needed the government to protect their rights--they've had caretakers with common decency, and that was enough. But I guess activists somewhere have found people who need Big Brother to tell them how to be responsible owners. Whether lawmakers are fanatical or just trying their best to enact reasonable laws, animal rights seems to be an issue where balance is hard to find. My parents were unfairly charged, and forced to break the law, because they brought their "over-sized" dogs with them. And yet they brought them because of...common decency.

Besides that we were spending time in environments those dogs LOVE, playing with people those dogs LOVE, and that they both enjoy traveling, one of the dogs had recently contracted a horrible eye infection. Her vet prescribed medication that had to be administered to her eye several times a day, and the elderly neighbor who usually cares for the dogs when my parents have to leave them could not manage the job. Bringing the dogs along was the most reasonable, decent choice my parents had.

We left Crescent City the next morning, mentally battered but thankful that at least in the previous election the proposed CA state law that would have limited pet travel to only 1-1/2 hours per day did not pass!

What a simple yet complicated concept is "common decency." How hard it is for us to account for all eventualities and set boundaries that truly define love. There are as many choices to make about loving as there are ways to blog. Perhaps that's why God didn't get overly specific in His commandments, and admonishes us to avoid legalism.  His plan is for us to be free to love.


Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh I felt so bad for your Dad, feeling like a criminal instead of the loving pet owner he is. I would have thought since the motel charged you, you should have been allowed to bring them in the motel room over sized or not.
At any case Common decency is something not too many people think about..therefore should it be called uncommon decency..or rare decency.
Your description of the children's first view of the Pacific was awesome! I really enjoyed it! :)

Jen said...

Hi Lattice, I am Jen of Jen and Jan's site. I was raised in Eureka, CA, and so enjoyed the description of your visit there. Samoa and Crescent City are some of our old stomping grounds. I recently drove the sea wall at Crescent City and would highly recommend it to anyone. It is spectacular. You can start at the harbor lighthouse and go north along the cliff, the neighborhoods of the town on your right and the sea on your left. The beaches along the wall are strewn with tidepools and huge rocks, waves crashing in, occasional Pacific cypress trees providing the perfect focal point for photography. North of town you come to a vast grassy bluff. Walking out on the bluff you will notice a line of rocks meandering northwest out to sea. This sightline leads to the horizon, where the Cape Blanco lighthouse is barely visible ten miles out. Also from the bluff the curved shoreline of Pelican Bay stretches north for thirty miles to the little town of Brookings, Oregon. Thanks for your comments on our site, Lattice. I am enjoying your writing and the blogging world in general, even in our small corner of its big world. Jen