Thursday, March 20, 2008
March 20, 2008
It has been biblical around here. Highways and schools have closed because of flooding. More than 12 inches of rain have fallen on us in the past few days. People feel discombobulated. Some have been mightily inconvenienced. A driver drowned. Some people who can't get home are staying in shelters.
We hope the floods will only wash away our sins, but that seems too much to ask.
Our day-to-day lives have been disrupted by a monsoon. People in other parts of the world are used to this. We are accustomed to our rainfall being doled out more evenly, even stingily just last summer.
Capaha Park Lagoon turned into a lake. The lawn at our community center did the same. One of the floodgates that protects the city from the Mississippi River has been closed.
DC ran the sump pump in our basement all night. Water usually only gets into the east side after a good rain. This time the water moved all the way over to the west side of the basement. That's biblical in our house.
An uncommon feeling has been in the air. Our dog Hank sensed it, did a little dance when he came in from a walk in the rain. Humans could learn from the exuberance of animals. I know how Hank felt. He doesn't have to give himself permission to express it.
It's easy to get cocky about being human. We've explored outer space, we unlocked the DNA code, we know everything there is to know about Britney Spears. When nature changes our regular television viewing schedule it's an opportunity to look at something else for the moment.
As hard as we try to control what water does, it does what it will. Water will renew the world no matter what. "The world is a glass overflowing with water," Neruda wrote.
Water is timeless. A drop that falls on your head today once could have been a bead of perspiration on the brow of an ancient soothsayer.
Most every culture has a flood story, a myth in which the Earth is swept clean and the people once again thrive. Myths are metaphors. Joseph Campbell, the mythologist, says the flood motif represents "the dissolution of the world which takes place every night when we go into the flood of our own unconscious."
When our hearts flood with emotion or thoughts flood our brains we might feel afraid of being overwhelmed, as if our hearts and heads would allow us to drown. But those floods carry away debris that has been clogging our thinking and our feelings. Being flooded means bathing in fresh possibilities.
Inundation as physical and psychological need. When floods occur, we sense they mean more to us than wet basements. Says Campbell, "The whole notion that all originates from water, and all is going back to water, gives you a cycle: out of water, back to water, out of water, back to water; and each new cosmic eon, each new world-age, is, as it were, a creation out of water and a dissolution into water."
We are mostly made of water and are inexorably drawn to rivers and oceans. The currents and waves move in our veins, purify us physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Today is the spring equinox, when day and night are about equal in length and the sun has crossed the celestial equator, moving north to warm us. A time to immerse ourselves in new beginnings.
Sam Blackwell is a reporter for the Southeast Missourian.