Category: water

COUNTDOWN: One Day to Remember How It Rained

ast The flood at Naponee, where my mother was born four years later

ONE Family Story Woven In

Darkwater Creek, Nebraska is the setting for my novels, a fictional town along the Republican River in Nebraska, in Franklin County, my parents’ home.

The house on my grandparents’ farm was first located on the Republican River bottom, and it flooded in 1935. The man who owned the house then crawled into the attic to escape the floodwaters. He scrawled his will on the attic rafters, then hacked an escape through either a roof or an attic window, we’re not sure which. A man passing in a rowboat rescued him.

After the flood, the house was moved up to its current higher and drier location, and my grandparents bought the farm in the 1950s. When my grandparents remodeled the house, they found that homeowner’s writing, his last will and testament on the attic rafter. It was one of those stories about the house our family would talk about.

When I found that same story recounted in a published flood narrative during my research, and I was able to match up the name from the story with the former owner of our family home, history came alive for me. Family history lives if we breathe into it our interest and our intention. Remember with me in my novels, and revisit your own history when you can. In remembering you’ll find your place in a story, one worth sharing with the next generation.

BTW, If you haven’t already, you might begin with Seven Kinds of Rain: River Saga Book One. Then you’ll be ready for Remember How It Rained: River Saga Book Two.

 

*photo by Webber from noaa.gov, courtesy Joe Torrey

COUNTDOWN: Three Days to Remember How It Rained

Floodwaters in Alma, Nebraska

THREE separate references to earlier (pre-1935) Republican River floods . . .

 

. . . from Native lore and local retelling, as recorded by Follansbee and Spiegel in 1937:

“For the Republican River, as for many other western streams, there is the usual Indian tradition of a higher flood before the days of the white man. Engineers, in the course of their investigations of the flood of May and June of 1935, found three separate references to such flood. An old Indian in the vicinity of Benkelman made the statement that 40 years before he was born there was a great flood 2 feet higher than that of 1935. As he was about 70 years old, this would date the legendary flood as approximately 1826. A resident near Cambridge stated that when his father settled the Republican River bottoms would be flooded out, as he had seen, while a boy, the waters ‘extending from bluff to bluff.’ At Red Cloud several residents stated that one of Chief Red Cloud’s relatives who lived nearby was authority for the statement that more than 100 years ago a flood covering the bottoms “from bluff to bluff” had occurred. These statements are consistent and apparently had partial historic confirmation. At the time of this earlier flood there were no white settlers in the Republican River Basin, and the only white travelers were fur traders on the way from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains and points beyond. Search through the available writings of these travelers fails to reveal any reference to such a flood. It is therefore necessary to rely on inferential evidence from localities where whites had settled.”

(Follansbee and Spiegel, 1937, pg 50.)

*photo by Webber from noaa.gov, courtesy Joe Torrey

COUNTDOWN: Four Days to Remember How It Rained

Flood-twisted railroad tracks

FOUR 1935 Republican River Valley Flood statistics1

  1. 110 people died in the flood, some whose bodies were never recovered.
  2. 20,593 head of livestock were lost.
  3. The force of the water destroyed nearly 275,000 of farmland acres and washed out 171 miles of railroad track.
  4. Eight fatalities resulted from four distinct tornado paths on May 31, in the McCook region of Republican River Valley, as the flood’s storm system moved eastward. The tornadoes rated from F2 to F4 on the Fujita scale.2

*photo by Webber, from noaa.gov, courtesy Joe Torrey

Consider a Holy Day

Consider a holy day,

the present full of grace,

born and broken for you.

Bear witness to

the flickering incarnation in a newborn squint and

the longing for resurrection

that huddles in the chair beside death’s mattress.

 

This is our day to love the forsaken earth,

not pretend to rise above it.

A day to smile at the sun and sleet that burn our eyes.

To numb our hands in glacier-fed rivers,

taste ocean salt, trudge deserts and mountains and

watch cloud-shadows race across the corn.

To bless this damaged place that holds us,

taking up our shovels and buckets of water,

replanting what green flourished

before we trampled here.

 

Our day to put down the flashing,

trilling toys of self-importance and

look into a child’s eyes until she shines and then

cuddle her while she

rhymes her way into being.

 

This is our day to accept the hard truth we can’t bear and then

dare to change our minds enough

to turn back

to refill the well we pumped dry.

To be content, unnoticed and unpraised.

 

This is my day to start the race I can’t win

and may not be strong enough to finish.

Then, falling short, to enfold myself with

all weary runners

in mercy’s blanket wool.

 

My day to offer the first hot serving and the last cookie.

To lose and applaud the winner until my hands sting

and her cheeks flush with joy.

As if I have all the time in the world,

to listen and sing someone else’s favorite song

in his hearing.

 

My day, set apart

to restore the window glass

or culture

or person I broke,

to learn to swing softly,

to trace and honor the curves next time.

 

A day for us to shatter the hinges, springs

and teeth on every trap,

to set the bones, staunch the blood and release.

 

This is our sacred opportunity

to soften our sharp,

hard-bordered countries into one sanctuary,

to fill the bowl, raise the rafters and

clasp the stranger.

To sanctify our here

and make eternal our today.

 

—  K. Lyn Wurth, December 16, 2015

In This Place

Wherever you are, so much has happened in this place.

Page Lambert said at the Women Writing the West conference in October, “For each of us, and with each new story, Place will be different. At its heart will be everything that has ever been born, lived in, or died in that place, everything in the past, everything in the present, all energy— every sound, smell, ray of sun, every shadow, every sorrow, every joy.”

I considered these words deeply during my return to Colorado, where I grew up. As I sat on a boulder beside the St. Vrain River, I listened to the river rushing and delighted in the golden aspen leaves overhead. I considered the many times I’d been there as a child, with various friends and family, some now deceased. I thought, too, about the flood rearranged much of the valley’s beauty in September of 2013, and how that place must have seemed very different during those disastrous days. I could see the marks of that flood in the road repair signs, as well as the sand deposits and detritus lining the river

Personal, geographic and climate events are just a few dimensions of the place where you find yourself, right now.

Picture the changes that cycle through your current location. Remember or imagine, too, the people who lived, loved and died there. Recall the conquerors and the conquered who fought over and for the territory you occupy, who longed for the place you call home.

Imagine their sounds and shadows, their sorrows and joys. Imagine the richness of your place.

Water, Anywhere But Here

Water, Anywhere jpgMy new short story, “Water, Anywhere But Here,” appears in the July/August edition of a very “green,” pdf-only literary journal, The Broadkill Review. This tale is set in New Mexico, one of my favorite places in the world. If you’re in the mood for great poetry and an intriguing interview with author and poet Marge Piercy, you’ll enjoy this issue.

I’ve been following this journal for a while, and I appreciate what the editor, Jamie Brown, assembles for our literary pleasure. I also appreciate that he published my story! This link will take you to a page with subscription information, if you’re in the mood to add another journal to your reading list…this one won’t even add to your straining bookshelf, and will go with you wherever your pdfs can travel; computer, smartphone, tablet…you get the drift.

Imagining All Summer in a Day

rainy day by jenny rolo

rainy day by jenny rollo

“‘Ready?’
‘Ready.’
‘Now?’
‘Soon.’
‘Do the scientists really know? Will it happen today, will it?’
‘Look, look; see for yourself!’
The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun.”

— Ray Bradbury, “All Summer in a Day”

After last year’s threatened drought, it’s rained heavily this spring, seemingly everywhere in the U.S. Thunderstorms, floods and tornadoes rattle, wash and shatter us with their scope and power. Weather changes can be dramatic and deadly. Sometimes they bring on physiological reactions to humidity, temperature atmospheric pressure changes. More rain? Drip. Ouch. Sigh. Bleh.

Seeing our potential ten-day forecast for another eight days of consecutive rain, I almost let my head thump down on my keyboard in despair. I caught myself in time, though. It sure would be nice to look forward to more than two days in a row with sunshine…I was going to whine and complain, when I remembered something better. Better than whining and complaining, you ask? Why, yes.

A story.

1975 ray bradbury photo by alan light

1975 ray bradbury photo by alan light

Decades ago, I first read Ray Bradbury’s short story, “All Summer in a Day.” What I could remember of it haunted me, so I reread it today, to find it even better than I’d remembered. Bradbury tells of a human-inhabited, colorless, perpetually stormy and jungle-like Venus, where sunlight breaks through to warm children’s skin for only two hours, every seven years…that is, if human frailty doesn’t corrupt even that irreplaceable pleasure. Can you imagine experiencing all summer in a day?

Rereading “All Summer in a Day” made me think about childhood and weather, how rare and lovely and terrible they can be, sometimes all in one classroom or one moment. I’ve written and read many short stories since I first read this one. Few have made such an impression or felt so pure, complete, balanced and starkly perfect in their storytelling. I aspire to write this well.

venus in transit, june 5, 2012, nasa photo

venus in transit, june 5, 2012 by nasa

From Ray Bradbury’s online biography, here’s what he had to say on his 80th birthday: “The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me.” Something tells me this is a man who found heat and light, words and meaning in almost any sort of weather.

On June 5, 2012, just a little over a year ago, Ray Bradbury died during the Transit of Venus. During that event, from our limited, but well-lit vantage point in space, cold Venus appears to cross the flaring, disc-like surface of our sun. Nice ending, sir, to a well-told life. Thanks, too, for the story. I’ll ponder it and it will warm me during the next several hours, days, or years, of rain.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
cover art

This review is based on a pre-release reading of the uncorrected, “galley” proof provided to me by goodreads. Novel Release Date: June 5, 2012.

I just finished an early taste of summer vacation, with a rich and engaging book. Nichole Bernier’s debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., is a brave and breathtaking story about the subtle natures and interplay of womanhood, parenting, marriage and friendship.

The story begins as Kate Spenser, her husband, Chris, and their two young children begin their seven-week vacation at the beach. Kate is still processing the death of her friend, Elizabeth Martin, the victim of a plane crash in Queens that is abruptly overshadowed by the disasters of 9/11. As she mourns her friend, Kate also finds herself responsible for Elizabeth’s secrets and legacy; Elizabeth directed in her will that Kate alone receive the locked, antique trunk that holds Elizabeth’s journals.

Kate, although a reluctant interpreter of her friend’s written life, takes the responsibility seriously. Her commitment to reading Elizabeth’s journals influences not only her memories, but raises questions about Kate’s own decisions and marriage. Her fascination, which borders on obsession (as mine did, reading “over her shoulder”), stirs Kate into uneasiness. While ruffling the surface of her marriage, the responsibility also places her at odds with Dave, Elizabeth’s surviving husband, who struggles with his own suspicions about Elizabeth.

This story begins as an intriguing mystery about Elizabeth–her personality, relationships, changes and affections. Yet, this mystery is only the wrapping that conceals other, more tender dilemmas for the reader to unfold. Through her strong characters, striking observations and deep insights, the author leads us to ponder the dedication it takes to endure uncertainty; about the people we love, about seemingly random events and the “mere” coincidences that make the difference between life and death. The greatest mystery I savored in this moving story is the immeasurable cost of secrets, which protect, torment and shape us.

Nichole Bernier draws the reader into Kate’s private, conscientious point of view. Reflecting on her deceased friend, Kate considers that some people “don’t fit into a box. They grow to infiltrate everything, and when they suddenly go missing, they are missing everywhere.” In another post- 9/11 moment, Kate considers that, as for having a third child, “It seemed a dangerous thing, having more children than hands.” (Out of respect for the uncorrected proof status of my galley, I won’t quote more than this…although I could go on and on with great pleasure, thanks to many “aha” moments of literary and emotional resonance.) The author rings true with her characters and a timeless consideration of the dangers of love, in its many mysterious forms.

Please find more information on the author, book excerpts, the first chapter, release date and where to purchase at: Nichole Bernier’s blog and her author website. Thanks to goodreads for drawing my name out of the great hat of cyberspace. I will post this review on their site, as well.

7 Random Drops of Water: Poured, Dripped and Logged

Lake Michigan, Door County, Wisconsin

Water is the most taken-for-granted necessity of our lives, except perhaps for air. While much of the world pines for water, here in the U.S., we bottle it, spill it, spray it out of garden hoses and flush it down the drain. As long as it flows out of the tap and doesn’t back up through our sewer lines, we give it little thought.

Today, let’s change that. As a topic, water is as vast as its oceans, glaciers and atmospheric presence. I’ve spent a little time considering it as a metaphor, a scarce necessity, a molecular compound and a force of nature. Today, I present for you 7 random “drops” of water.

Gavins Point Dam, 2011

1. The Missouri River Flood of 2011, an impressive, unexpected deluge, devastated farmland, disrupted local economies and travel and destroyed many homes and barns. Fortunately, it wasn’t fatal, as were the hurricane-related floods of the South in recent years. As with most natural disasters, finding someone to blame for this one is still a priority. Some blame nature, while others lay it at the feet of bureaucrats. I believe nature can outsmart bureaucrats 99% of the time. Smart water wranglers assure us that this was a “500-year flood,” unlikely to recur soon. Smart people who rebuild on the flood plain are pouring very tall concrete foundations for their homes. See my video of Gavins Point Dam in 2011, when 160,000 cubic feet of water passed, per second.

Thales, out of the well

2. Thales of Miletus, whom Aristotle described in his Metaphysics as the founder of natural philosophy, is reported in myth to have fallen into a well while studying the stars. Aristotle also recorded that “Thales says that it is water”–meaning that according to Thales, water was the originating principle of matter.

3. A rarely-noted water behavior is sublimation, where H2O in its solid state bypasses liquidation to become a gas or vapor. During my childhood in Colorado, I learned about one such phenomenon: the Chinook wind. According to Dave Thurlow of the Mount Washington Observatory,

Chinook winds are westerlies from the Pacific whose moisture gets wrung out as it passes over the Rocky Mountains. Once these winds come down from the mountains onto the high plains, they can be quite mild and extremely dry-as warm as 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit — over 15 Celsius — with a relative humidity of 10% or less. The air is so dry that when it hits a snowpack, the frozen water evaporates, going directly from the ice to vapor and bypassing the liquid phase entirely.

This sublimation is not to be confused with Freud’s psychological equation: sublimation = sexual energy transformed into creative energy, which has little to do with drinking or bathing, but likely has everything to do with Freud’s mother…drinking or bathing.

Ogallala Aquifer

4. An aquifer is a soil and bedrock formation that percolates water into purity, filtering out minerals, organisms and some contaminants. Abandoned wells (Make sure you don’t have one at your place; children tend to fall into them.) bypass the aquifer and allow those bad things into the groundwater. Here is a map showing the Ogallala. It’s very shallow, but one of the largest in the world.

5. Digging a well by hand is very hard work and this video demonstrates how it’s done in most parts of the world. Thanks to ghost32, whatever your real name, for this video of hard, thirsty work in Mexico.

Beaver by Ilyes Laszlo

6. Not only is there a Beaver Crossing Nebraska, but this village has an impressive, watery history. I lived there for less than a year, leaving against my better judgment, but holding a neighbor’s recipe for the best oatmeal cookies I ever ate. First struck in his mercantile basement by Earl Eager in the late 1800s, a gusher of an artesian well system made this village better than the average watering hole. (Did anyone else notice the fortuitous “Eager” and “Beaver” juxtaposition in this text? Of course you did.) Learn more in Mary Lanik’s history of Beaver Crossing and its wonderful wells, as well as at the first link here, in #6.

7. To the best of my knowledge, since 1866, federal water law and policy has deferred to states in the allocation and administration of water within their boundaries. Please notify me if this has changed and I will assume all blame for the error.