Ponder this:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Moi, après le déluge

I drove through the village this afternoon......thought maybe, since the road was open again, some places might be open for business. I thought I'd go and see if the Community Apothecary was open. I left a prescription there Saturday morning to pick up on Monday.
Uh. 
No.

I had no conception, despite the pictures and the videos, of the immense reach of the flood. The little league fields at the outskirts of the village . . . the markings and fences are there. The creekside pavilion next to them is a hundred feet from where it was. The pavilion's picnic tables are upside down, way up next to the road....washed upward fifty feet, and hundreds of feet south of where they started. 
The 300-year-old stone house is there, and solid, its front yard rail fence plastered with dusty matted waterlogged brush and weeds. 
My drugstore with the windows and greeting card racks empty, my hairdresser's machinery and pedicure chairs piled up in the parking lot, the library with the filth matted against the caved-in latticework porch skirting . . . all dusted with dry mud . . . the antique camelback loveseat, from one of the little reading nooks, outdoors and all brown-murky-smeared, tipped on its back.
No way to turn around until I got to Bridge Street, now bridgeless and closed after the first block. The macadam that, in June, I waited in line for and detoured around, smelling then its fresh rich intoxicating oil and tar scent. I watched it being rolled and pressed beautifully smooth. It's all peeled up and washed far away. I turned and came up the back street with the big pretty houses. Muddy, filthy, soaked, formerly (five days ago) elegant furniture, and piles of lumber and torn-out hunks of ruined pink fiberglass insulation out in the yards. 
Porta-potties here and there.
People in rubber boots and rubber gloves and filthy legs standing looking at the mess, carrying buckets up and down the street.
A big sign: "CLAIM INFORMATION HERE" and "VOLUNTEERS, THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU."  

The whole area stinks. 
I don't know what the stink is. It isn't sewage stink, although that's part of it. The closest I can come to a description is: rot and silty creekbottom mud.
Beyond heartbreaking; stomach-turning.
A fire policeman whose left arm must have been so tired, pointing me to the detour up over one of the hill roads. Oddly, interestingly, the old, old plank bridge is intact, although I could see where the creek had surged right over it.


I have seen this stuff on the news, in Arkansas or Louisiana or someplace and I have thought, "Oh those poor people..." but this! These are places I know by smell and sound, and it's all a wreck from one end to another. Must I see every disaster first hand to feel true sympathy for others who've had these experiences? 
If this is this horrible, what must it be like in places where it's been wearing down for tens, for hundreds of years?

I drove down the driveway and breathed deep breaths of spicy wet leaf scent. The house had had little bits of leaves stuck to it through Monday, but they've dropped off and blown away now. I drove into the barn and got out of the car, turned and stood a minute ignoring the dogs' hysterical hello barks from the front doors. 
I looked at my nice clean dry house with a nice clean dry mattress to go to sleep on tonight, and I thanked God most heartily.

21 comments:

Woodswalker said...

I'm glad to hear you're OK, but sad to learn of wreckage of your community. Hold on to the hope that all will come back, some of it better than ever. Sometimes events like this cause people to rise to true nobility.

ladyhawthorne said...

I'm glad you are ok. Yes the smell is awful and will probably get worse. It does here on Texas Gulf Coast where we have high humidity. And cleanups seem to take forever. Thankfully the worst I've had to deal with was a tree through my parents roof years ago. I think flooding is worse.

Linda Myers said...

Thanks for letting us know you're okay. A moving post, your reflection on then and now.

#1Nana said...

What has struck me the few times I've been involved in disasters of one sort or another is that there are areas of distruction and then half a block away it's like nothing has happened and life goes on like any other normal day. There is much to be greatful for. The disasters remind us that it can all be gone in an instant. I'm so glad you came through it okay.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Heartbreaking . It's going take months before the town feels even vaguely right .
People always surprise , though , with their kindness and willingness to help . After the initial shock , you'll probably all build a stronger community than before .
You'll be working flat out at the office over the next few months .Look after yourself !

Friko said...

That's exactly what I do when Valley's End gets flooded below us. Although I live just 25 m away from the river, my house is also 20 m higher up on the bank.

I too have the luxury of walking down and watching people discarding carpets and furniture.

As it happens every few years, people are resigned to it.

Olga said...

I was also shocked to see the damage done just a few miles from my house here in Vermont. The devastation will have a lingering effect.

Freda said...

I was shocked to see the damage on tv - glad to know there are good volunteers and that you are not badly affected.

Grandmother said...

It must be so disorienting and disheartening. Sorry that's what your neighbors are facing and glad you're okay.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Good to know you are ok, I have never encountered anything of the kind of natural disasters that I have seen on tv from around the world, the way it seems to wantonly pick and mix from neighbourhoods. It must feel like a wild lottery of destruction.
I dont know how people carry on, but human resilience is unmeasurable, thankfully.

Sightings said...

It does make a difference, doesn't it, when it hits home. We were 3 1/2 days without electricity and water, bad enough, but a neighbor was over here at our house this afternoon doing laundry, because she STILL doesn't have electricity, six days after.

Barb said...

What a devastating scene you describe. So much lost in such a short time. I agree that sometimes we see this devastation on TV and can't really realize the impact on people's lives. Glad your home is high and your Family safe.

Carolynn said...

Amen. And Amen. We are so profoundly blessed here in our little piece of the world. There but for the grace of God...

Joe Todd said...

All one can ever do is take things a day at a time. Glad you are ok

Retired English Teacher said...

I also am glad to hear you are ok. Your post truly was heartfelt and touching.

Pauline said...

I lived in VT for 12 years and the devastation in that state along old familiar roads and river banks was heartbreaking to see. We had only minor flooding here in western MA but even so, I recognize your description of that awful mud stink. Glad to know you're okay.

Isabelle said...

Goodness. How terrible. Glad you're ok. Very sad for those affected, though.

Vicki Lane said...

So glad you are high and dry. Yes, there's nothing like first hand experience to help one's empathy along.

Morning Bray Farm said...

Just wanted to let you know we're thinking of you.

C-ingspots said...

I cannot even imagine what you're describing...but my heart and my prayers are with those people all over our country who are suffering under such tremendous hardships. At times like this, we are reminded that we are most certainly in control over nothing. May God bless and protect...glad you're ok.

fiftyodd said...

We all sympathise over here in Cape Town. A terrible thing to happen. Good luck with the clean-up.