As we drove home to pack, we drove into a rainstorm. The deluge started as we hit the DC beltway, and it was the worst rain I have driven through. One of those times where, looking back, you realize you should have pulled off the road and are lucky to be breathing with all four limbs attached and working. We were listening to Bryson describe the hot, murderous climate of the outback deserts of Australia, and perhaps this canceled out the flooded road somehow in my mind. The northeast was flooding. We even made the BBC International front page. The mighty Susquehanna river, which runs just a few blocks from our little abode, has broken her banks and is washing through the lower floors of houses by the river. The arches in the stone-arch bridge are almost covered completely, and we are officially in “flood stage” and rising although the flooding and damage is miniscule compared to the devastation upstream. To add to the trouble, the water treatment plants along the river were knocked out, so there is no longer potable water running from our taps.
(It bothered me that this minor inconvenience annoyed me so, since I have lived in countries without readily available drinking water, and cabins without hope of running water at all. However after a little thinking, I realized that my annoyance was because we weren’t set up for water-unavailability, not at the lack of water itself. Anyway, back to the flooding.)
The deluge and rising water brought to mind, as we began to dismantle our living space of the last ten months, the ancient flood accounts. Flooding in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible are the two most readily at the tip of modern consciousness, but nearly every ancient civilization that lived in river valleys, or near the ocean, have tales of rising waters and ensuing destruction floating through their oral and written histories. These stories talk of the terror of rising waters, the destruction that follows, and the return of survivors to a cleaned landscape, traditionally purged of vice and sin by an angry god. These pilgrims start over in a world devoid of friends and family, devoid of the civilization and culture that was washed away by the water. But in these stories, the survivors bring human character into their new life and land, with the triumphs and failures those strengths and flaws necessitate.
It seems appropriate, as white walls expand behind posters and tapestries rolled up and packed carefully away, as stretches of carpet not seen since we moved in last September are bared and vacuumed and loaded down again with precarious mountains of boxes. (I am startled by how much space we, who own no furniture, no expansive Thomas Kinkaid/Precious Moments/Beanie Baby collections, no major appliances, have managed to fill with heavy boxes and Rubbermaid tubs.) We are moving into a new life, with almost no previous context and no good idea of what we are getting ourselves into (we love Alaska, and know her coastal climes, but have never lived in – and only briefly visited – the interior). We are hopeful and nervous, starting over with just our car, the dog, and a small shipment of boxes from our previous life. We don’t know where we will live or work, and we have a whole city to explore and learn anew to meet our needs for food and water and WiFi. Our life here is flooding out, and a new one awaits us when we land in the White Mountains at the end of July.
For now, we are full of boxes and tape, brooms, vacuums and Simple Green, trash bags and runs to the Goodwill. We ship Monday, and then begin a very circuitous route North (through South Carolina, Texas, New Mexico and Death Valley before settling on a more thoroughly Northward path up the Cassiar & Alcan to Fairbanks.) North To The Future, Ya'll. Or as the tourism industry encourages - Alaska: Before You Die!