Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Flood Garden

The rain has been falling for days now. Springs rush from hillsides where no one knew there were springs. Hillsides rush to the roads, in slow, tumbling falls of mud and rock. The major roads that lead in and out of my region were blocked for days, open for hours, blocked again. Wet and disconsolate tourists wander through my shop, happy for something to entertain them, anxious to have news of when the highways will again open fully.
I don't tell them that some years the closures lasted a week or more; why depress them?
And the power goes on, goes off. On now, and folks from the hills have rushed to town for supplies and mail, sharing stories: Firecreek is blocked, China Creek fell in, Salmon Creek is impassable...

And the flood garden has flooded twice already.

When I first came to this region it was for a week long stay with a friend I'd worked with in a city library system--it was the job that got me through college, and to Europe. After a few years of wandering and adventure I had returned to California, intending to travel further north, beyond state boundaries, to a possible job in another library in Oregon.

Sally had just retired and bought a place outside a town I'd never heard of, though I was able to locate it on a large map. With her teenaged kids she'd made the move. While I was still in England, pondering my next steps, she wrote: come visit me a bit.

The Greyhound Bus ran in those days right to the three block main street of her new town.

I arrived in the summer, with a migraine, my boyfriend of the era, a backpack, and Sally's phone number. Dust blew down the street; the place looked shabby and grim.

What happened next stunned me. As I stumbled off the bus and looked around, an inner voice said "this is where you should be". I thought "great, I'm going crazy". The voice repeated; I shrugged it off.

Sally had a little, extra cabin close to the river, the little guest cabin where my boyfriend and I were to spend that week. During the big floods of the decade before the cabin had been half destroyed. The silt from that river's onslaught was piled just beyond the cabin steps.

It was there, when I decided, with Sally's encouragement, to turn my life around and stay, that I planted the first garden. We called it the flood garden, and in years to come I would see it under water more than once. I still remember the joy I felt, carrying stones from the river bed, tucking in herbs and flowers, planting trees--a hawthorne and a deep rose flowered crabapple.
They are still there--the rosemary having grown into a vast and tangled hedge, through which roses press. Boyfriend of the era went on to his academic career, writing books, living in grand cities, writing me about his new loves. I got a job at a local motel, and then at a local bookstore. When my firstborn was tiny he learned plant names in the flood garden, and wandered the bend of the river with me, looking for shiny stones and watching the white egrets fly up into the tall fir trees that grow along the river's edge.

Sally spent her last years living in that little cabin--her daughter and partner and grandson live these days in the big house. She added dozens of roses to the flood garden, and a white bench on which you could sit and look out towards the river and the hills. Her daughter tells me the bench went journeying this week, bobbing along the flood swollen river, but the trees are holding firm.

This morning, standing in line at the post office, I chanced into conversation with a guy who lives up from Sally's old place. We shared news of the river levels. He said, "yes, the flood garden was covered again--do you know where that is?" I told him a bit of my history. "So you knew Sally?" Yes, I said, she was how I came to be here in this remote area; how I reached the tiny dot on a map. We shared our appreciation of the beauty of the river. "The storm has changed it again" he said "it's cutting a new channel behind the island." "Yes, the first winter I was here it did that--the water came to the porch."

Things change, he said. And then he said something that brought tears to my eyes. "You know, there were all the paths where she'd walk with her dog" Yes, I said, remembering how she'd delighted in her energetic last dog, Lucy. "No one walks there now. The paths have grown over."

15 Comments:

Blogger Hydra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:43 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Hydra said...

It's amazing, as the history repeats itself, the transformations and the passage of time could become most obvious.

Thanks for your comments on my blog. Your post is beautiful.

2:44 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

I like to write about floods, and I like to write about gardens. And have done both with probably more-than-usual frequency. So I like this, title and all, and think you should make it into a bigger story.

5:39 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Foulla said...

Thank you.

6:55 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

1)memory is a stranger. Some never die & some are always so close one can always touch...

2)It is amazing how people influence each others lives with words of encouragement. The effect of words is incredible...

3) Happy nu year Jarvenpa. Wish U all the best.

9:59 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Things always change but with memories like these, a part of them will always remain. You have such a lovely way with words and making the images come alive.

11:30 PM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Kimia said...

It's really good if someone can decide herself that where is the place she belongs to. I love your posts because after I read any of them I have this feeling that you are happy and satisfied with your life, and this is like a positive energy for me everytime. Nagging people are like energy suckers, I don't like them although I am one of them :)
Thanks

6:25 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger David said...

I have never planted a whole garden, just a few plants and trees here and there over the years. Maybe someday I will. :)

I have seen some of the flooding out there on the news. It looks pretty bad! I hope that your current dwelling and your book shop are above the flood waters. Maybe when the water goes down you could make some new paths in the flood garden. :)

1:02 AM, January 08, 2006  
Blogger Blue Hole said...

I hope you are ok. I haven't "seen" you lately. Thinking of you.

10:58 AM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

thank you all for your comments; I am okay, blue hole (remember my multifaceted existence, and deadlines, and all). Foulla, I got copies of two of Idir's cds, thank you, thank you, for opening this window for me.
I will post again soon, my life has been momentarily hit by the death of a close friend, very unexpected--head on collision on a slick highway not far from my shop. These last years have been very full of deaths for me, yet I seem not to get reconciled to the concept much better than when I was a child.
Usually poetry is a lifeline for me, but it is faltering for the moment.
However, I am okay, as are all my companions, feline, canine, and human, and soon, yes, I will post again. Though not, I think, about my friend. It takes a while for the wounds to close a little.

8:42 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger David said...

I am sorry for your loss Jarvenpa. It is always hard to loose a loved one, friend or relative. I lost my last grandparent a few weeks ago. I plan to write about her soon.

11:57 PM, January 10, 2006  
Blogger Foulla said...

well,i'm glad u like it.
if u dont have the one u can hear in my blog i'll send u the link..
Thank you again for the post...thank you.

6:18 AM, January 11, 2006  
Anonymous m2 said...

O tempest-tossed, the wisdom of Will:

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep."

8:17 AM, January 11, 2006  
Blogger ardvisura said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog
you're more than welcome and of course you can post in english, I can understand more than I actually can write.
I relly liked your post and will come back to read more.
My son is really much better now, his first year was like hell to us and certainly to him.But now he lives as a normal kid, no medicines,no hospital and he goes to school.Kids with Costello are very similar to kids with dawn syndrome: warm personality, loving and such fun to be with.as we say in France:un plaisir, des amours.
a bientot et bonne chance avec la météo.

8:43 PM, January 11, 2006  
Blogger Blue Hole said...

I am sorry about your friend -- that's horrible. I am relieved that when you look outside the windows you are not seeing the floodwaters.

4:33 AM, January 12, 2006  

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