12 January 2009

flooding memories

There is flooding north and south of us, the Chehalis river over I-5, the Lewis in Woodland, Salmon and Johnson creeks both out of their banks. And the rain continues.

June 1976, my dad and I were at the church for some kind of event when he got a message that the Teton Dam had broken and flooded our new home in Rexburg, Idaho. My dad and I flew from Los Angeles to Idaho Falls in a single engine plane with one of my dad's pilot friends who sweet-talked air-traffic control into letting us land at the Idaho Falls airport and then through all the barricades into the flood zone. The images of the destruction remain clear: the scoured cement foundation of our house, all structure completely gone; green strawberry plants in a muddy border around the space that once was a porch and garden shed; the swollen bodies of cows rolled up against collapsed fence lines; deep swirls of black mud crossing and re-crossing the roads; small airplanes caught in trees and tipped up against the skewed shapes of buildings, miles away from the airport.

February 1996, the Columbia River bore ice and then melted into brown water the color of a cappuccino. At its peak, the Willamette breached the sea-wall to flood into downtown Portland. I was working for a band back then, Stain, and we had played a gig in Vancouver the Thursday night that the rivers crested. In the early morning hours after packing up our gear, we took a detour on our way home, parked at the end of the closed I-5 and walked up and over the Morrison Bridge. Trees the size of train-cars were stacked up against each other on the south footings of the bridge, their yellow insides bare and splintered. The water was red and brown and foam. But mostly I remember the sound of it, the deep roar of something primal. The sound of water moving the earth.

Perhaps it is the same sound that whispers in the rain outside my window tonight. The barest hint of inherent power. Evidence of that which is greater than us all in a single raindrop.

I remain awed and grateful.


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