While the American government is building roads in Afghanistan and Iraq, here in Vermont or is it Timbuktu? folks are taking matters into their own hands and rebuilding their own roads the old fashioned way ~ hardscrabble, old tractors, rakes, shovels, neighbor to neighbor, lifting river bed rocks out of the road in the millions all over the state and throwing them into a flood crevice 5 or 10 feet deep and getting their roads back.
There have been three beautiful days in a row since Irene ~ that was the least she could do for us. Otherwise she reminded the state how rivers move and live. This is something folks had to learn the hard way: you got too close. Or the bridge in 1990 wasn't built with the eye and skill of those who remember the floods in the '30s. Yesterday, after a lift into town (Brattleboro) we got a peek up Flat Street where the majority of businesses were many feet under water and are now digging out of mud. Few have flood insurance. In the sun, spread out along the street, people were together like they maybe haven't been ever in their business lives side by side washing off material of mud and grime and sharing a similar story. If you made a passing glance going by, the gathering looked like any farmer's market ~ the colorful, the many, the unity of spirit. Many of these small businesses could be ruined if there isn't common sense relief given by whomever gives money or even has money in these times. Right now people are giving to one another. It's a Hurrah moment.
At home everything is high and dry but we're without phone or electricity. The river has dropped a million tons of water since the flood thundered through on Sunday, so by Tuesday evening we could stand along the water's edge and look easily across to a small island of our land where all next year's firewood has come forth in full tree lengths swept in with the Irene tide. Powerful maple trees grabbed out of the ground by its roots and brought to our catching spot. In twilight, along the shore, I found a flood sculpture plastered with the force of water engines made of sticks and grasses and roots and debris eight feet tall and 3 feet wide and it's about all I had to see in the wake of the flood. Mother's nature.
Down river, neighbors were working on that jagged rock ledge where the road once had been and where Alex and I lifted the motorcyclist lost on Monday night up and over. No one will ever know where he came from or where he was going. He never took his fishbowl helmet off. I believe that region got itself filled in by hand and small poor man tractors and the road gained itself a full two miles now from the covered bridge and the village. All without our taxpayer's wages to town workers, and all neighbors hard at work. A second Hurrah.
We've been on bicycles, everywhere. Miles.
We also refused to obey Amazon's and other book engine services orders by asking us to shutdown our bookshop and go "on vacation". Yes, we were going to get cut off the grid and wouldn't have book orders coming in as easy as pie, so it meant we spent the last two days traveling far and wide on foot, bicycle or borrowed ride, packing book orders out on our bikes and on our backs and fetching more orders when we got to any computer terminal we could borrow. I'm tapping this out to you from there. I'm even in another state. But the sun is coming in through the broad windows.
By tonight when we return home, maybe the lights will be on. There are towns and regions far worse than we are. There isn't a speck of river mud in our house. Count ourselves lucky. I don't need to drive anywhere, my bike is fine. I love my river friend of forty years, we've done a lot together. And she's allowed to show her stuff.
Tomorrow you'll come hiking down and ask me how a river that gentle and soft looking could do the damage that is seen. I'll point eastward to the high water mark, fourteen feet up and burnished into the hillside like a long time scar it will be. No words. But Hurrah.