Thursday, February 9, 2012

Flood Warnings

In 40 days and 40 nights, the New Year poured more than 20 inches of rain onto Portland, Oregon. Flood warnings were issued; orders to get to higher ground given. Yet, I remained unmoved.  Rather than leave, I clung tightly to my bedrock, as has been my habit the past few years; afraid to let go, afraid to lose the footing I’ve gained. It didn’t matter that I no longer recognized the shoes.

You should know, this flood is not a flash flood. This is a flood that took hours, months, even years to develop. More than once, I was given fair chance to evacuate, but instead I placed sandbags around my fears that protected my doubts and allowed me to roost safely within them. I built levees of the heart with impermeable soil that promised security and a future, but at what price? Well-constructed levees let nothing in, but shouldn't we also consider that which they keep out? One can drown in safety too.

Photograph by Jim Richardson

However, this isn't about levees and rivers, although the river is about. This is about roads still above water. Journeys of the heart that must be taken. This is about allowing the levees to fail and resisting the sandbags. This is about roaring louder than the roaring water. 

When floodwaters recede, they often reveal a foundation changed yet remaining. Nutrient rich silt fills the cracks, silt that has supported growth for millions of years. When one stands on a million years, there is no doubt time is on her side. Beneath the water is a mystery waiting to be unearthed with a shovel and a dream, just as things have always been unearthed. 

Tonight, a ghostly fog shrouds the visible. The rain has stopped, and a sound faint but detectable rings from the river. For whom the bell tolls, I ask as I stand at the cold door straining my ears for an answer. I’m thankful for the fog tonight, the way it sits heavily on the fence across the street. The bell continues to toll, although distantly. The fog lifts, briefly, but long enough to reveal a sliver of the moon and a question. Suddenly, it's understood for whom the bell tolls is only part of the question; we must also ask who rings the bell? 

We are our own bell-ringers.


  1. Your writing is unique and talented...also challenging, now!

  2. Beautiful and haunting, especially this: "Beneath the water is a mystery waiting to be unearthed with a shovel and a dream." I love the layering of landscape and meaning. A fine read this afternoon, SPT.

  3. I like it Lisa. The safe choice is not always the right choice for people who have adventure written below their surface.

    So often we bend to convention, push onward without even looking up, and hold on to what we have in fear that we may need it tomorrow even if it is not serving us today.

    To use your analogy, we dam the rivers thinking we are saving the water for future use, harnessing nature for our own own good, protecting ourselves from flash flooding... But the spirit of the water doesn't respect or bow down to that, the strength of its will to be free drowns us out, the pressure of captivity builds and despite all our planning, all our thought, all our good and safe intention, the dam breaks, the levees fail, the destruction becomes far worse than what we may have suffered had we let nature follow its own path.

    I admire your awareness and willingness to tear down the dams that now block your path. They have served their purpose, but it might just be time to find out where that path, your path, has yet to go. Grab your paddle and suit up, your river awaits!

  4. Thanks, all, for reading and responding to my post. Your comments are so appreciated. Sorry it took me awhile to get back here - I've been busy letting the sandbags go. New adventure awaits. More to come...