“Water is King,” I says to Ray. “Yes,” says Ray, head bowed in reverence. “Yes it is.” Then we pull down our face masks, cross our arms over our chests, and fall backwards off the steps into the depths of the…basement. But let’s back up a minute.
I used to think nicotine was king, the way it can twist you around its little finger practically before you’ve even met. But this spring on the Row has taught me that nicotine is just the naughty playboy prince. Water – covering about 71% of the earth’s surface and making up 65% of YOUR body – reigns supreme. So yeah, go ahead and redirect rivers to build your sweet little farms, but just don’t get too comfy; any time he feels like it, the King can take it all back.
Last spring and summer on the Row were unusually wet and cool. This past winter, we were buried in snow. And so far, this spring has been a delightful mix of rain, thunderstorms, wind, and more rain. The upshot is saturated ground. The water table is, oh, maybe a bazillion feet above ground level with nowhere to go. Creeks (cricks is what you get in your neck when you play Rise of Atlantis for four hours straight), streams, and rivers are brimming or overflowing. Closer to home, the dog pond out by our meditation tower has spilled into the tower yard. The shelter belt and half the pasture to the south are under water. I slog around in a daze of ancestral muscle memories of the primordial bog. I’m driven to root for cattail tubers. And we live on HIGH ground. Below and a few miles to the west of us, in the pre-dam-system river valley, the iconic Midwestern “sea of corn” is now literally the sea, whitecaps and all.
So when we got home from a lovely, restful trip to Minneapolis last weekend, we had a new basement swimming pool. Our basement isn’t finished; we use it for storage and Ray’s workshop (and storage for all our kids’ stuff, "just for a little while, honest, Mom"). There’s no sump pump – we’ve never needed one. But the King welcomed us home with about 4” of water when he discovered he could rally his troops in the flooded old stone windmill well at the east edge of the property, march along the ancient unused underground iron pipe from the well to the house, then storm – drip by gurgle by drip – our basement. (“He” is appropriate here – only a snooty monarch would do this to a woman’s sacred canning & wine cellars.) We’ve spent this past week digging a sump hole and installing a pump, burning waterlogged cardboard and elevating stuff. But thanks to Ray’s BFH (big frickin’ Thor hammer), my new boyfriends (the Campbell’s Supply & sump pump sucker guys), the tireless work of our youngest son, and our good friend who had the bad luck to stop by mid-bailing, we’ve arrived at a truce punctuated by thrice-daily wet-vac’ing.
We know it's temporary. We know the King wants his stuff back. The forecast calls for more rain. I’m sewing sequins on my Esther Williams outfit, and we’re growing gills (a plus for underwater mowing). But the iris, alium, and coral bells are gorgeous. We planted tomatoes, hot peppers and corn during a brief 2-hour sun window, and the peacocks are learning to quack. And the King has spared us the unbelievable rath dealt to Missouri, Mississippi, Minneapolis, even Pierre in South Dakota, and so many others. Some folks have lost everything. People are missing. Many have died.
We’re lucky. So we won’t whine or complain. We’ll spend this holiday weekend memorializing the dry years, wet-vac’ing in shifts, emptying dehumidifiers, and moving fans around. We’ll count our blessings and lotion up our webbed toes. We’ll pay our tithes to the King, trusting he’ll soon be distracted by that steamy vamp, Summer.