Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Few Too Many Drops to Drink

Note: I did not take the following pictures, but I did "take" them from the Valley Independent Sentinel, a local new source that provided great coverage of yesterday's flooding. Check them out!

House in The Maples section of Shelton

When we bought our first house in 2003, aside from the initial excitement and fear of being a new homeowner, the thing that stuck with me most was something the inspector said. He had invited me to follow him as he checked everything from the basement furnace to the attic insulation, pointing out the hundreds of things that needed to be fixed or addressed in the near future. I mentioned how strange it seemed that so many of the issues were water related – whether it was the condition of the roof, the grading of the yard, the tile in the bathroom, or the age if the pipes, it seemed that roughly 75% of the problems involved keeping water in, or out, of the house - which I suppose makes sense considering 7/10ths of the earth’s surface is covered in water and the human body is basically ¾’s water. 

But at the time, I was so overwhelmed with all the problems and issues he was pointing out, all I could do was make a lame joke, something like, “Wow, if water is that much of a problem, I can’t imagine what it would be like to buy a houseboat!” He just looked at me and said, “It’ll be a constant battle, but just so you know, Water Always Wins.”

At the time, it didn’t seem all that profound. But he said it in such a way that was so matter-of-fact and undeniable, I tucked it away in my memory bank, knowing that once the mortgage was approved, papers were signed, and boxes unpacked, it would be something to ponder. And in the years that followed, images of the Grand Canyon being carved by the Colorado River, the Titanic being sunk by an iceberg, or the failure of the New Orleans’ levees all served as constant reminders to how right he was. Water Always Wins.

It’s a bit unsettling – that something so simple and basic can be so destructive. I’m intentionally ignoring the power of the atom, as we can see water, which somehow makes it more real. Plus, it doesn’t take a madman and a red button to unleash its awesome power.

Many of us spent this past winter dealing with what seemed like unprecedented amounts of snow. Missed days of work. Sore backs. Heart attacks. And countless car accidents – all from fluffy drops of frozen water. Then yesterday, at least in my area, a couple inches of rain, coupled with all that snowfall, led to some very serious flooding.  Houses destroyed. Photos and memories washed away. Roads made unpassable. All from water.

another house along the Housatonic River

But at the same time, we need water. My students are always shocked to hear that one can go weeks without food, but only days without water. We tend to take it for granted. From the ice cubes that cool our sodas to the steam that cleans our clothes, it’s everywhere. We appreciate it when it’s where it’s supposed to be, be it a pool or sink or glass – yet get upset when it shows up in places like our basement. We use it to clean, yet it also makes a mess.
The Stevenson Dam, with floodgates open...and a rainbow

The Housy, and the Red, White, and Blue
I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this, but since there was wine in my glass all night, rather than water, the moral escapes me. But there’s no escaping water. Water Always Wins.

That's not to say we should give up the fight - for even though it seems silly to think we can defeat evil things like cancer and terrorism when we can't even beat water, if you look closely at these last two pictures, you'll see that the human spirit still somehow manages to rise above the flood. We may not be able to beat water,  but we can still float.


  1. WOW! I can't imagine how devastating that would be. That car! Holy cow.

    P. S. I finished your awesome book! I LOVED it, so I wrote a review on my blog.


  2. :) excellent mike. very good. and it didn't crash my bb this morning, first thing i read :)

    yes water always wins and it is a constant battle...i was very impressed with my jr. scientist son yesterday who was drawn to the pond in my yard & was digging ditches channeling the water away from the house. mud is in his blood, to quote a little lopaling, but i was watching him fascinated with the thought that an irishman named mulholland turned LA from desert to oasis :)


    really nice article you have to share it :)