Weak in the Knees

Weak in the Knees

detail, Turner, visipix.com

I can’t concentrate at work. Each day I am more tired.  And even though I am eating right, getting exercise, spending time in quiet, I’m feeling the toll of so many days of angst.

Today, I drive through West Brattleboro, for the first time since the flood, and I am surprised, and almost sickened, to see edges of black top missing, dangling into run off, yellow line and all.

I haven’t been on Route 9 since the days I walked it with dozens of other neighbors to take in the devastation; and this neglect of Western Avenue leading to Route 9 brings the trauma of that pilgrimage back.

“Road Closed,”says the sign at the base of the road, and so I turn my car around, and then  roll down my window to check in with another driver who looks perplexed.

“What am I supposed to do?” he says.  “When I came down from the college to go to the store, that sign wasn’t there.”

“You know the back way, don’t you?” I ask. And he shakes his head ; so I say, “Follow me.”

I always feel better when I help someone. It gets me out of myself, and channels my grief into something that moves, instead of puddles.

It hadn’t occurred to me when I decided to head toward Route 9 that I was avoiding Ames Hill. Though I’d driven back and forth on it a few times already, I had always been a passenger–like I had been the night that we tried to make it home to Marlboro during the flooding.

Ames Hill was nightmarish then, with only a single, rugged lane, flanked by deep caverns beneath the jagged edges where the road had been eaten away.

Once we made the decision to proceed, there was no turning back or pulling over; and if we abandoned our car, which I would have liked to do, emergency vehicles wouldn’t have been able to get through.

But I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was making sure that the young man in the van with out of state plates was following me–past Lilac Ridge with the bright sunflowers, and around the turn to head up toward the Robb Family Farm where the cows used to moo.

It was then that my body began to re-live the tension of that nightmare ride home, even though there was a boy playing ball on the lawn in the afternoon light instead of a car dangling over a deep ditch in the dark.

I noticed my stomach tighten, without any thoughts, and I realized that my body had some more letting go to do, even if my mind didn’t.

I tried to get onto Route 9 this morning too, but there was work going on, and I didn’t want to interrupt it, so I turned around and took the long way again.

As I passed the post office, I realized that it had been days since we fetched the mail, and so I stopped, and heard how Marshall spent three hours trying to get to work last week, and finally headed back home to Brattleboro, where he took a long walk with his wife, and saw all kinds of unusual things in the water: propane tanks bobbing, an actual car, and even a house, upside down, floating like a boat on its attic.

Perhaps we need to get my friend Susie and other artists to create a large canvass upon which we can all release what we have seen.

Another Lisa took a trip down the Augur Hole yesterday to help Peggy move back in, and Lisa’s stricken face said more than any words to describe what it was to see that road missing, and the wide, rocky stream bed that was now it its place.

I haven’t been to Wilmington, but having lived there for several years, I feel a strong kinship to that community. I can’t imagine what it must be to see the devastation downtown.

As I climbed the stairs to second floor office this morning, my legs were heavy with this grief–and that of Texas, and of Japan, and I noticed that the flood had carved out much more room inside of me for compassion, and that it was taking more energy than I was used to giving.

And then there’s today’s murder at the IHOP in Nevada which brings back the grief of our own killing at the Brattleboro Co-op; which is a sour place to end this post, leaving me weak in the knees.

And yet, as I come down MacArthur Road, past John’s place, and Jason’s apple trees, and Gail’s berries, and Robin’s sky, I notice that the sun, though hidden by the clouds, is shimmering its way through in a perfect offering of light.

Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, VT

For more on Irene and VT, click here.

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Mom, There’s a Fish in the Toilet!

Mom, There’s a Fish in the Toilet!

On the day after Irene assaulted Vermont, the word on the road was that we could be without power for up to a month. When we saw what the flood did to Route 9 (the main highway across our state) we didn’t doubt it.

My husband and I began talking about leaving. “Maybe we should head down to family in New Jersey,” he said.

But of course, we had jobs; and the kids had school–maybe; and we wanted to be in town to help when there was someway to get to the others who had been harder hit than us.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we were stuck like everyone else. No one was heading out of town on these badly damaged back roads, let alone a Honda Civic, when even the National Guard couldn’t even make it down our road with tires bigger than me.

We resigned ourselves to living the way we know how to live without power–candles, and jugs of water, and simple meals; only we couldn’t use the front porch as refrigerator as we did after a winter storm.

Once again we envied those with generators, and talked about getting one ourselves, but I was always wary about the dangers, and it wasn’t the loss of the refrigerator or the lights that hit me the hardest–but the absence of flushing toilets.

I know it’s not very Vermont of me, and I did always want an outhouse with a moon-shaped cut out on the door, but instead I sent my husband down our driveway and across the road to the pond, to fill up a bucket with water, and pour it carefully into the tank of the downstairs toilet so that we might get at least one flush a day.

Thus, the next morning, after my husband left for work, it didn’t take me long to figure out what happened when my young son called up from the bathroom to say,

“Mom, there’s a fish in the toilet!”

But it was the last straw.

“What do you mean?” I called down the stairs, just as desperately.

“A fish, Mom. There’s an actual fish in the toilet,” he replied.

“Is it alive?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“How big is it?”

And we continued this separate floor conversation like this until I told him, “Just scoop it out, and take it back to the pond.”

“Can’t I just flush it, Mom?” he asked.

“No!” I replied, “It will die. Just scoop  it out and take it back to the pond.”

I know it was a big request for a tiny thing that he’d string on a fishing pole on any other day, but after seeing the devastation to my town, I couldn’t bear another loss, however small.

“I can’t” he replied quietly.

“Why? Just get a cup or something.”

“I can’t… because I’ve already used the bathroom.”

“Pee?” I asked.

“Nope,” he replied.

“Oh.”

And so I resigned myself to sending this poor little unsuspecting fish who survived the Great Flood of 2011 to its end in our septic tank.

“Go ahead and flush,” I called to my son, as one who selfishly demanded water for her toilet.

Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, Vermont, 2011

For other posts from Vermont after the flood, click here.

Or here to read more about flushing toilets after a storm.