Thursday, October 20, 2016

Paddling Across the Sky

At night, I worry about different things than during the day. In daylight, I'm busy processing the myriad errands I have to run, dog walking, groceries, volunteering, and yes, still picking Nick up from events since sophomores aren't allowed parking permits at school.

I like the dog walking. Today was a doozy. The water was rising in the river and overflowing its banks into the dog park. For some reason, bubbles of air and water were blowing all around the edge of the new lake that had seeped inside the fence. It was fascinating.

As I stood there, watching, Teddy ran over, pounced on some bubbles, and started barking at the strangeness of it all. In the meantime, water pooled up over my shoes and I only noticed when my socks suddenly got wet and cold. 'Insidious' was the word that came to mind. The quiet lake grew while dogs frolicked in the pooling water, but then it was spilling over the walkway into the park as I finally decided to bring Teddy home. The park is circled with a lake, but really it's a crescent of river that was cut off as the switchback shortened itself during an old flood and straightened the flow of the river.

I love that.

There are two of these crescents within a few miles of each other, shallow remnants of the river. But they refill and gain strange currents when the river floods.

Our Pacific Northwest rivers are newer and much more susceptible to change than rivers in the East or Midwest. Newer mountains, newer rivers, more change, more unpredictablility.

But that river crept up on me, bubbling cheerfully in one place and threatening to rise to my knees in another.

I never did paddle during a flood. I told Mike once that I wanted to, but he said there would be a strength of current that we might not be able navigate and it was too dangerous. I just wanted to paddle over fields and across roads. You know, the whole valley fills up sometimes and everyone has to evacuate, horses, cows, and even the zebra. But since that time years ago when I said that to Mike about paddling high water, I've seen what floodwater can do. Three hundred year old trees can be uprooted and rolled downstream to be deposited in the middle of a field with a pile of other trees where an eddy formed during a flood. I've seen houses sitting off kilter from their foundations when the swift water took the dirt out from under them. I've seen a highway turned into a weir where flow poured over its length and boiled the far side of the asphalt away. Flood season is a wonder where I live.

But rarely do I actually worry about the floods themselves. I might worry about Nick's social life, his compassion, Mike's heart or tendency to offer too much help, plastic production, climate change. Yes, I worry about each of the plastic containers that my vegetables seem to need these days. I wonder what ocean they will turn up in next. I wonder if I can wean myself off them and back to the flimsy plastic produce bags I used to put my vegetables into before. And am I doing enough to avert climate change? Is anyone? Is it too late to avert the flood of change?

When I wake in the middle of the night, I worry about the effects of humanity on the Earth and the Earth's revenge. Can we survive without all the species we've evicted from the planet? We may not know until climate change and the rafts of plastic overtakes us.

Yes, I'd rather be mindlessly paddling across the flooded sky, navigating fields and roads filled with water, even if the currents are swift. I may need to yet if the water keeps rising. I may end up with oceanfront property and might have to paddle the currents anywhere I go.

Thank you for listening, jules

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