Fort Vermilion Flood, 2020.
Today didn’t start as most do for me: an abrupt alarm measured only by Jack’s piercing barks and abrasive “kisses.” No, Today just phased in, an extension of yesterday. Time is measured not by hours or minutes, but by the rising and falling of the water level.
Today was a lesson in juxtaposition. The river was soothing and quiet. It is relaxing to watch the chunks of ice wind their way down the stream during the early morning. Yet, in the distance to my left the trees were being ripped down and to the right my house was swimming against the rising tides. I could discern the wet trunks and the bank where the water had dropped slightly during an early morning walk. At the same time, all of the ice floating by me meant that a probable ice jam would form down the river, which in turn could lead to more flooding. The jam did occur. It started downstream and out of sight, but in a few short hours I would see chunks of ice piling into our only pharmacy’s parking lot. A strange reminder of The Rock, my first home, with its massive ice pans, against the setting destruction of where I now reside.
As the day progressed, I found myself unable to contain myself. I scoured the town, in person and online, until I could come across a sign or some word of my house. The water appeared stagnant as it clung to the building, just shy of my door, a few feet off of the ground. I can’t be sure if the water breached overnight and was now receding back out, or if what is inside remains dry. One thing is clear though, I will not be able to move back into the building that has grown to be my home away from home. It is strange; I worry about my own place, but I see the destruction of others, and my heart breaks. I feel torn: why should I worry about the small collections of my life when others may have lost entire livelihoods?
My day ends with great uncertainty, but also with considerable hope. The water level has dropped substantially. The river is crawling back down over the main road and into its bed, hopefully to sleep. In its wake leaving behind boulders of ice that litter our roads and parking lots. Perhaps the ice is its final stand; the last hoorah before it moves on. Or perhaps, as the ice is jamming a little further down, the river will come back to take what it has left behind.