river muse

Escaping 2020

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 1/6/21

On Christmas night, the river crested. Distracted by the holiday mood, we didn’t spend the day or our energies fretting about flood. But when all was quiet, the dark river rushed closer to its …

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river muse

Escaping 2020

Posted

On Christmas night, the river crested. Distracted by the holiday mood, we didn’t spend the day or our energies fretting about flood. But when all was quiet, the dark river rushed closer to its bank, and to us, cozy at home with the flames of a roaring fire diminished to a bank of glowing embers.

The blanket of snow that had promised a white Christmas in a dark year quickly melted with a full day of warm rain. Snow obscures any faults in a landscape and ours has plenty. River debris from the flood of ‘06 still litters the island between the river and us. A rusty three-legged table holds an urn that, covered by snow, looks like a Grecian antiquity rather than the Home Depot close-out it is. Those leaves that were left to mulch the lawn are revealed again in all their drab nuisance.

When you live by a river, you live at its mercy. That is the bargain we strike when we choose beauty over surety. It can be thrilling to watch the power of water when it is roiled. Waves crest under the Narrowsburg bridge and tumble into the eddy that swirls like a huge drain, catching whole trees and picnic tables in its clutches before sending them downstream in a mystifying river dance. It is a dance without choreography, upending the detritus of man onto the topography of nature. In summer, pods of colorful kayaks make their way past our windows. In winter, ice fishers dot the riverscape and stately eagles stand watch on the edge of ice floes catching their daily needs.

When you have known a flood personally, you are forever vigilant. In ‘06, the Delaware entered our house through the front door, flooding the entire basement and coming up four feet into the front room. That time we had watched it increase over four days of steady rain. If not for the intrusions of man, it would have left us unscathed. The New York City reservoirs certainly added to the problem, so now we monitor the reservoir capacity weekly in this newspaper from the river gages online at www.bit.ly/RRsoundings.

Like the year 2020 itself, we escaped the worst on Christmas night. My husband reminds me that our last experience in air travel had us arriving at JFK to a fully packed customs area at the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S. and the President’s flight restrictions last March. When a thoughtful customs agent saw us with our two dogs, he directed us to a swift entry, avoiding the crowd. That may have saved us from early exposure.

Even with threats like flood, we consider ourselves fortunate to live where we do, away from crowds as yet unvaccinated. Two of our family members who live in Brooklyn contracted the virus but were able to recover at home without passing it on to our three-year-old grandson. He has grown a foot taller since we last saw him in February and speaks in whole paragraphs now.

When all the brave frontline workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 (a nearly miraculous outcome), my husband, as someone who is over 75 years old, will be in the next pod to receive the vaccine. We have kept safe by wearing our masks and social-distancing for 10 months. Now we are intent on dodging disaster in the new year as well. Get the vaccine!

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