Sunday, December 16, 2007

The White Tiger left, and the Black Tortoise showed his usual abominable character. We were lucky, when the floods came: our house was on a hill and it only covered the road in front of us. Neighbors would reach the puddle, get out of their cars, and tromp up the driveway in enormous boots to find out if they could get through. Pick-ups, yes. One remarkable woman in a minivan, barely. Anybody in a car, nope.

A flood may be the most boring natural disaster I've ever witnessed. Water rises without the drama of a good fire or the howl of wind. It doesn't have a barren beauty to it the way a blizzard can. It's brown, dull, and kills more people ever year than any other act of nature. The town up the highway from us, Vernonia, had more than half its houses flooded and three-quarters of its businesses. Like I said, we were lucky--we only lost the things we had in a storage locker outside of town.

Unfortunately, those things included many of our books. Most are replaceable, but the sight of my signed copy of Tam Lin lying in muddy sewage was a wrench. My wife lost her correspondence from childhood: over twenty years of pen pals, kindred spirits, and her magazine for girls. The Principia Dana gave me for proof-reading it is gone.

These are replaceable things, mostly. They were solid memories, and we still have the ideal ones to treasure. But for the first time I understood Xerxes. If I'd had an army, they'd have been lashing the Nehalem.

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