Monday, August 29, 2011
It's Only Water
It's only water. They used to tell me when I was a new kayaker. Hey, stop being scared, it's only water. I never understood that, not then and not now. Water is the most powerful, awesome, destructive force on the planet. It takes people in a quiet heartbeat, washes them away without a word, closes over them like the lid of a coffin. It roars and flashes, smashes and screams and destroys. It took Stephen this summer, and then Allen Satcher on Cherry Creek, then Boyce Greer on the North Fork Payette, again. And now it's taken Vermont.
I knew about the hurricane and its enormous, swirling eye hovering directly above my hometown on the weather radar. My parents had stocked the house with food and water and as many candles and flashlights as they could find in the empty isles of cleaned out grocery stores. They told my sister and I not to worry, as electricity and cell phone towers were sure to go out for a long time. I didn't worry about them, or my house high up on its hill, the epitome of safety, miles away from the rest of the world. Instead I wondered vaguely about New York City, Boston, coastal land and all the people in those areas having to evacuate.
I went out to Index, Washington this weekend on a climbing trip. There was perfect weather, a riverside camp ground, friends I haven't seen in too long- but when my cell phone died on Sunday night I packed up and headed home, a day or two earlier than I'd planned. With everything going on back East and my family braced for impact, I didn't want to be out of communication. I got back to the city a little before midnight, and was moving around my room putting things away when my sister came to the door. She sat down on my bed and said that mom and dad were okay, but Vermont had been devastated.
All of Vermont is underwater, but the Southern region was hit the hardest. Our region. Our town. All of these pictures are the of places where I grew up, where I go every single day when I'm home.
Vermonters like myself who now live in other places- the Vermont diaspora, as we call ourselves- are left staring at the news and Facebook with disbelief, heartbroken, stunned. Wanting so much to go home. Here's a link to all the posts and photos on The Wilder Coast about Vermont and New England. It's such a small, quiet, safe state- a rural refuge, peaceful and green and isolated. Nothing ever happens there. We always thought that nothing could ever happen there.