In Ice, but Out of Place: Flood Day 4

Fort Vermilion Flood, 2020.

My last two reflections about this flood have focused on the liminal moments. The moments of downtime where we find ourselves in between two extremes, and where the outcome is still unknown. In other words, the waiting game. Yet, the last two days have been anything but downtime. I have been working on the frontline as a volunteer helping to clean up the roads and prepare our homes for re-entry.

I won’t spend this time describing the scenes I saw. It is not my place to tell the story of those homes; those stories belong to the members of this community: they are not mine to tell. 

Out of place: how it feels to be where you don’t belong. I spent yesterday and today driving and walking through the aftermath of the flood. For one whole day I found myself in a street standing between the droning hum of two backhoes and the chur of a front end loader. On each side of me the ice stood tall where it was stacked. I, an English Teacher, stood there on that street with an iPad taking photographs. I could hear the loud splashes as trees or ice blocks, much bigger than me, fell or were pushed into the river. When it grew quiet, I could hear the dripping of ice blocks melting patiently into the silt that spread from the river, over the road, into the trees. I was the definition of “out of place.” 

It was sublime to stand in witness of the power, terror, and tranquility of the natural world all at once, but it was also exhausting.

In the end, was I out of place? Maybe. On one hand, who wouldn’t have felt out of place here? On the other hand, aren’t I part of the natural world too?

Addendum:

I have been burning my candle at both ends: dealing with my own stress, striving to help the community clean up, and trying to be a shoulder for others. The truth is, however, that I couldn’t do this without the support of my friends here. They mean the world to me. Living away from home is very difficult, but there is something special with the friends you make while living here. You quickly grow close to others. What would take years to create between friends, takes little time. Today after working in the flood zone, I came home and a friend had made cold-plates, a traditional meal from Newfoundland. It was exactly what I needed to keep my head up. It is these small acts of kindness that keep us afloat at times like these. It is these acts of kindness that make us human and remind me where I am from. 

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