The miniature bouquets of bluets have arrived,
and the golden dandelions,
and the gift of morning dew on the Lady’s Mantle–a
Mother’s Day communion that I press into my Third Eye.
The ants are here too, building hills right outside my front door,
seeming to claim that spring belongs to us all;
while the woodpecker–the one who drums from deep in the woods–
lends a jungle sound to our Green Mountain home.
That pause in May between
Mud Season and Bug Season,
just before the Campers arrive in their SUV’s to ready Neringa Pond
for a summer of (joyful) Noise.
My boys, still in their beds;
the oldest, just home from college, last night,
looking like my mother as he sleeps,
while his younger brother broadens briskly, taking our breath away.
I prepare a mug of Matcha,
dressed in the Kimono that Peggy passed along,
clad in my new cushioned flip flops,
and follow the sweep of my driveway…
In this moment, beside the still waters,
I can’t imagine how I ever thought
of living Anywhere,
I can’t drive Route 9 without a swell of love for the labor that has restored our world in the past few weeks since Irene hijacked our streams. At each turn of the highway, I see orange cones where the guard rail once stood, and I know that a section of road was washed away there too.
To say that a “section was washed away” doesn’t do justice to the calamity of Irene. Entire segments of Route 9 simply vanished, roots and all, leaving cavernous holes in their place. The span of each missing stretch of road can be measured by the new pavement–ten to 100 foot stretches–sobering, if nothing else.
I’ve only been back on Route 9 as a driver for a week, but it’s been repaired enough for passage for at least two. That first week it opened was rough going, with dirt patches along the way, and road crews littered about.
I worried aloud for the safety of drivers–those who didn’t know to slow down, and those who might be hurt because of that. I worried about rain, and new wash outs, and dampened spirits.
I kept to the backroads. They were familiar. And dependable. Some had been destroyed, but their repair seemed simpler, more straightforward; and I knew how to drive their earthy contours; and felt safer because of their realness.
And still, I was drawn back to the nightmare of Route 9, to its curves and climbs and horrors, just as I was tonight. At 6:00 pm, the road crews were gone, and the setting sun made purple mountain majesty of the sky, transforming everything, even the mangled roads, into… beauty.
As I approached my turn at Route 9 and MacArthur, I saw that most of the rubble which has defined it has been cleared away; and I almost miss it.
My sister comes Friday and I want her to see what pain has been inflicted upon us. And yet, I’m equally afraid for her safety as she drives up my half-eaten dirt road at night. It’s narrower than ever and there’s no room for cars to pass in both directions at once. And what if it rains?
Tonight, I climb MacArthur without another driver in sight, and notice new gravel poured into the stream side of the road. I wonder where it came from, and how long it will take before they finish the job that overwhelms me just thinking about it.
There’s a large yellow truck at the top of the hill, and I slow down to take a look at the work that began yesterday at Neringa. Three weeks ago, a hundred wedding guests were stranded there when the bridge across the Whetstone collapsed.
Rumor has it that the dam at the pond was the cause of the flooding down MacArthur and onto Route 9 and down into Bratttleboro, but I’m here to tell you, that dam is still intact. It’s how the guests crossed the pond and secured passage home to Canada or California or Massachusetts and Lithuania. It’s how the caretaker and his family get access to the car that’s parked in our driveway across the road. (Their truck is still stranded on the other side.)
There’s no sign of a bridge yet, but Bennett and the operator of that huge yellow excavator are talking, like men do, figuring out what’s what.
The trees that fell across the bridge were removed yesterday morning, and the monstrous culverts that ended up downstream were retrieved in the afternoon; so perhaps replacing them is next.
I’ve never thought too much about road making and bridge fashioning until now. I never thought too much about watersheds and erosion and stream redirection either. But for the past three weeks, I’ve been intrigued by every bit of it. Every bit.
When it doesn’t make me cry or cringe, driving on these roads makes my heart swell with every labor of love.
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.
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.