Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Laguna Continued - The 100 Year Flood, 1986

This week, we were to write about an uncertain memory.  I chose to write about the way we often remember natural disasters.  I was twelve in 1986 and the flood that swept the Russian River, almost completely submerging the town of Guerneville, and flooding many parts of Sonoma County (including the street where I lived).  My Uncle and Aunt and cousins lived and had a shop in downtown Guerneville.  So, for me, this natural disaster looms as one of the biggest and closest of my life.  But, this was a disaster that happened before news media was reactive and everywhere. So, those who weren't here then, have a hard time understanding the brevity of it.  For them, the history of Sonoma County (as Gaye LeBaron puts it in the quotation below) begins the day they arrived. Part of my Laguna poem sequence is based on helping foster that remembering.

The 100 Year Flood, 1986

“But people are like that about natural disasters.  Everyone believes that the history on any place began the day they arrived.”  --Gaye LeBaron

Memory is as uncertain as islands
that rise in a flood—you don’t know what lurks
underneath. A silver boat can split this
seam of water: even gone muddy, gone
untold for so long. Disasters rise and stay
like high water marks in the unconscious
and each day after is checked against it.
What do we have to fear?  The worst already
happened, couldn’t happen again.

But the river, like a muscular animal,
overtakes the banks, chews up asphalt, rises
more to fill stores and homes.  Until
the whole Russian River Valley is filled
with her muddy, pulsing body
regardless of what history you remember.

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