Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Morning Thanks--The Big Muddy

If right now my house was bermed in by earthen walls and sandbags, emptied of its furniture, its appliances, and its treasures, and vulnerable to that water coming down from the eastern face of the Rockies, I'd see the whole thing differently. I'd likely blame the Army Corps of Engineers for sitting on their thumbs when it was clear that all those reservoirs up stream were filling far too rapidly. I'd likely spit about the fact that geek somewhere was sleeping at the wheel and forgot to oversee the excess behind the series of dams that were supposed to control that one-time unruly Missouri River.

I'd be mad, I suppose, and grousing, too, and scared.

But then I know people who think that series of dams put in years ago already toy with nature in a way that we shouldn't, that floods are as natural as wild fires, that just because we can control nature, or think we can, doesn't mean we're doing the right then when we do.

People lots smarter than I am can go to war about that argument. I'm not about to rush in where wise men fear to tred.

But yesterday we watched 150,000 cubic feet per second pour from the Gavins Point Dam, the southernmost dam in the Missouri River system, the very first time that dam has been opened in its 50-year history because it actually had to be. The only water I've seen roil that fiercely was on the upper Niagara, just up from the falls. It was astounding. All that water coming out of the dam was mesmerizing in its sheer power.

Down river, in Sioux City, thousands of people are still filling sandbags. For the first time in half a century, the Missouri has come up out of its banks, its vitality somehow restored in a picture of what once was. Like I said, if I lived along its banks, I'd be scared and probably mad.

But from a distance all that water and all that commotion, all that power belittling all our finest engineering, all of it has become a sermon about nature, our control over it, our ability to wrestle it down, our dreams of conquest.

Right now, right here, Big Muddy lives again, and while I'm sorry for those displaced by its reemergence, there's something sort of grand in seeing us--its one-time conquerers--cower. I'm not thankful for property lost, for flooded schools and churches, for communities threatened. I'm not thankful for flooded basements or whole houses gone.

But I think we're all better off being told by nature, by God, that maybe we aren't as omniscient as we like to think we are, that our best work doesn't come close to the power of creation itself, that, good Lord, we're really more vulnerable than we like to think.

Pride is still the king of the seven deadlies, but today in a ton of places along the old mighty Mo pride is under water rampaging once again as wildly as it once could.


Anonymous said...

"Dust thou art, and to dust thou shall return" Out here, the air is so saturated with smoke from a forest fire one hundred miles away we can't see the hills just a half mile away from our home. But the robins are in the garden this morning, looking for earth worms exposed while we were planting our garden yesterday. A beak full of worms makes a pretty good day.

Dutchoven said...

Get ready for more folks, upper Missouri tributaries out here in Montana are fed by mountain snow- currently the mountain ranges surrounding the "three forks" of the Missouri (Gallatin, Madison, & Jefferson rivers) have over 200% snow pack yet to melt...and all those "tribs" are just cresting this week above historic flood levels; we have only had one day above 80f in the valleys so far this year...that means very little snow has melted at all yet.

Janet Boebert said...

Fragile balance - doesn't really take much, huh?

Anonymous said...

You don't mess with Mother-nature.

Anonymous said...

We have so much smoke out here we can't even see the wind mills. Maybe more wind mills and solar sun energy would help to keep that delicate balance. It's so dry out here your spit drys before it hits the ground.