Sunday, April 7, 2024

A Bad Storm

There was a bad storm, and the water rushed like a river down the street, rolling over the rocks and plants in the hellstrip. The hellstrip is what we call the slice of land between the sidewalk and the street. In our neighborhood a lot of people plant flowers there instead of grass. When we moved into our new-old house, I liked this idea and immediately wanted to try it too. 

The first spring, which happened to coincide with the covid lockdown, I had a lot of time on my hands. My plan was to dig up some plants from the backyard and transplant them into the hellstrip. But first I had to get rid of a pile of large rocks at one end of the strip. Why were the rocks even there? Who knows. My husband and I decided the previous owners were weirdos, and we loaded the rocks into a wheelbarrow and dumped them on the side of the house. 

I plunked the newly dug up plants into the holes the rocks had left behind and felt very proud of myself. A few days later there was a bad storm. I watched from the porch, horrified, as the water rushed down the street and crushed all of the new plants. When the rain stopped and the road-river subsided, all of the plants were gone. I found them later in the Wendy's parking lot at the end of the street, mucky and ruined. 

My husband helped me put all of the large rocks back. I planted more plants and hoped they'd grow deep roots before the next storm. From then on, whenever it rained hard, I would watch the water hit the rocks and part, relieved when the plants held steady in the center, but knowing how precarious the whole set up was. 

The other night we were out to dinner, and my husband said I was a different person from how I used to be. Maybe it was when we moved, he said. You were different in our other house. Or maybe it was the pandemic? Or the election, the one in 2016 when you lost your mind? Or the one in 2020 when you lost your mind again. 

He didn't say the "you lost your mind part" but I knew what he was getting at. We were eating pizza at a restaurant up the street. This is a tradition we started several years ago, a weekly date night where we'd take turns surprising each other with reservations at new-to-us local restaurants. We did this maybe three or four times and then it was March 2020 and that was the end of that, until now, when we've cautiously gotten back into it. 

Maybe I am a different person, I said. Or maybe that person was there all along. I was remembering something my therapist said to me about trauma and how sometimes you think you're over it, past it, healed, and then a bad thing happens, a storm, for example, and while a trauma-free person can glide by on a cruise ship, you're down there in the water, fumbling with one paddle in your leaky canoe.  

The storm that came through this week happened in the middle of the night. The river, when we could see it, when the sky was just beginning to lighten, was rushing by faster, deeper, than we had ever seen it, the large rocks no match for it, the plants completely underwater.  

I drank my coffee and watched cars stopping and backing up on the street ahead of the rising water, a train of garbage bins floating by and knocking into each other. When the rain slowed and the water receded, I walked across the squishy lawn to inspect the damage. The scooped out ground, the few remaining deep-rooted plants, the rest, a blank slate, ready for spring planting.  

In the late afternoon a double rainbow rose over our house. I looked up at it from my canoe, which I have decided is not leaky after all. I have more than one paddle. I have learned how to row. 


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