Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Annals of Nursing- Part 5. The year turns.

And so the year turned, and it was 1970. We had survived and made it to the second half of our freshman year. Our upper class men assured us we were almost home free. If one was still there after the holidays, it was because our instructors and the school wanted us to be. We might still wash out, but if we did it was because we did it to ourselves. A girl might decide she would rather be married and pregnant than go on to be a nurse. Other girls might find themselves in what used to be called "trouble", though this was not as common as it was before the Dartmouth Infirmary doctors started handing out birth control pills. It did happen to one pretty brunette named Sidney, whose boyfriend admired her too much. Sidney was lucky. Her parents had money. They sent her to Puerto Rico on "vacation".

We, of course, had split into groups, or cliques, as most young women do. There was the vivacious, blond group, led by a doctor's daughter named Margie. This crowd made the rounds on Fraternity Row, though I never heard they were invited to Winter Carnival, the Holy Grail of Dartmouth social events. Cute could not compete with the Seven Sisters. The Margie group spent sunny spring days inviting a tan out on the flat, pebbled roof of Billings Lee. Linda, not a blond, but a Margie-girl anyway, toasted herself to a shade of Hawaiian loveliness, though I imagine she might have regretted it in later years.

My friends and I were the short, smart group. We were on the plain side of pretty- all brown-haired. Most with glasses.There was Mary-Ellen Bean, who came from Burlington because all the diploma schools in Vermont had closed. She had straight hair to the waist, and an affect somewhere between deadpan and Buster Keaton. My other best friend was Christine Kelsey. I was going to describe her as having a smile like the Cheshire Cat, but that was not so. Christine was the Cheshire Cat. Her father sent her to school so she would take care of him when he was old. I hear she fled this fate, and ended up somewhere in the South. Christine's favorite phrase was "sick', and she used it a hundred ways. "Sick!" she would say if something amused her. "Sick" was her comment on the ridiculous and the absurd. I have never met anyone who could give one word so many meanings.

Pam, another of our group, was indispensable to us. She had a car.A Plymouth Duster that carried us down to the Dairy Queen in Lebanon. Margie may have been cute and popular, but she did not have a car.

Beano,Christine, Pam, and I were regulars at a coffee house on the main road into town just east of the Ledyard Bridge.We talked and ate triscuits and drank cocoa, and met a few Dartmouth boys. Once I had a date with a boy named Roger Rockbound, who was a member of the Young Republicans. It did not go well, for I was on my way to becoming a verbal Bomb Thrower who spent her off hours reading Ramparts magazine. Maybe we were all cliches in those days.

Weekday evenings we spent up on the wards reading our patients'charts and writing care plans. Freshman year was devoted to adult medical-surgical nursing. The specialties- Pediatrics, Obstetrics, OR Nursing, Psych- awaited us in our Junior year.

Along with Med-Surg and Fundamentals came Diet Science, or Nutrition. Miss Carolyn Sherman taught it. Like Dr. Sandra McKay, Miss Sherman was a hand and arm waver. She was never without a cigarette. She was a stout, ugly woman with a pock marked face, a bulbous nose, and an inexhaustible supply of purple polka dot dresses.. She always stood behind a lectern. I do not know that she ever knew my name, or recognized me in the crowd. Perhaps because I hated her class. It bored me, and I made it through with a "C". Ironic then, that two years later she was to become the greatest and most influential teacher I had ever had. But that is a story for later.

I continued babysitting and working as a nurses's aide on my off hours. I also started ward-clerking and working as an aide at Dick Hall's House, the Dartmouth Infirmary. On Saturday nights ,another aide and I would go to the Mary Hitchcock ER to bring back stretcher loads of drunk Dartmouth boys. I remember one night when a bat got in and terrorized the halls. I remember elegant, sad old Dr Chambers dying of a brain tumor in an out of the way private room. There were stories that John
Wayne had been at the Infirmary incognito as he was treated for cancer. I never saw
him. And how could John Wayne ever have been incognito? Probably just a story.

One of the unpleasantnesses of the year was how often some of us were sick. I had a staph bronchitis, otitis media, strep throat, and legions of viruses. The Infirmary treated some of these, but not all. " I am not going to give you antibiotics", said one wise old doctor, "You need to build up your resistance". He was right, and
I did.

I can still remember the smell of staph and a smell I always associated with cancer. I smelled it on the old West Wing women's ward and on the East Wing Men's ward. There were so many patients with mouth cancers and esophageal cancers. Yet I was tough. It did not bother me. I was a nurse.

Since this is a coming of age story, I should add some tales of my baby sitting , for my evenings in the homes of doctors and professors were windows to other worlds.I met my first Southerner. She was Mary Lyons, the wife of a professor. I watched over her son Charlie. Mary Lyons hired me evening after evening, for I read to Charley- "The night Max wore his wolf suit" delighted him. I met the lovely and sad Patricia Gill, who owned a house in the pines and a free-standing glass octagonal music room of great beauty.It had a piano, and it was silent, for Mrs. Gill's husband, Dr Milton Gill,a professor of Music, had died not long before along with 31 other people when their plane hit a mountain before final approach to the Lebanon Airport.There was Dr Eric Ellington, the Chief Neurosurgical resident. He , his wife and six children lived in the cheap, cramped ,subsidized housing Dartmouth provided north of town. Everyone called it "Ticky-Tacky North". I babysat his children when he took his wife to see "2001". A few years later I saw his obituary in the Dartmouth Alumni magazine. He committed suicide. I remember that I was not surprised. I also sat for a black female professor- a rarity at Dartmouth. And for people I do not remember but whose record player and Modern Jazz Quartet albums I will never forget.

May came. The seniors graduated. My friends planned their going home for the summer. I did not plan. I would spend my summer in Hanover, at Billings Lee. Hanover was now my home. I did not want to leave it. I hated Claremont, the town my parents lived in. I had no high school friends to be sentimental about. I had work in the hospital and at Dick Hall's house. I was content.

In one of our last class lectures of the year, Mrs Smith, my instructor ,said something I remembered about the nature of nursing. I liked it so well I wrote it on an index card ,and taped it on my little desk so I could read it when I needed inspiration.

"In nursing", she said, "There are no patient needs that cannot be identified and met". To this day I do not know who was more credulous. Mrs. Smith, or I. By the end of my junior year the card was gone, for by then I knew better.

This ends the memoir of my freshman year at the Mary Hitchcock School of Nursing. The next installment will cover some events of the summer, and the coming of my junior year.

The Tale of the Talinum -Part 2

A few posts back I wrote about my Talinum, the Prairie Fameflower. It had seeded itself in an old broken pot and germinated years after it disappeared from my rock garden. I found it last summer, just as I was about to throw the old pot away. Here it is-blooming for the first time this year.

Retirement Carry-in -The Recipes

I posted pictures of the Greek Salad, the Ricotta Pudding, and the Cajun Potato Salad a few days back. Here are the recipes.

Greek Salad

3 tomatoes, sliced. I used hothouse tomatoes.

1/2 Armenian or English Cucumber, though you can use conventional ones. And you can use the whole cucumber if you wish. It's your salad!

1/8 cup red vinegar. I used balsamic.

1/8 cup Extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of sea salt- or more to taste.

1 cup of mixed pitted green and black Kalamata olives

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped

2 garlic cloves

An hour before assembling the salad, mix the olive oil and vinegar in a bowl. Smash the garlic cloves and put them in the oil and vinegar.Remove them after they have flavored the vinegar.

Slice the tomatoes and cucumbers. Layer them in a casserole or dish along with the olives, feta, and herbs. Sprinkle each layer with a little sea salt. Garnish with lemon rounds as pictured. Drizzle the oil and vinegar dressing over the salad just before serving.

This salad won raves at the Carry-in. There was not a leaf left.

Pineapple Almond Ricotta Pudding

1 large container ( 30 oz) Ricotta cheese

1 pint of fresh pineapple, sliced or cubed.

1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, depending how sweet you want it.

1 cup slivered almonds

2 tablespoons of Guava jelly or Apricot preserves (optional)

Put the ricotta, sugar, and pineapple in the bowl of a food processor. Add the almonds and pulse until all ingredients are blended. It may be easier to do this in two batches so as not to overload the processor bowl. Also add preserves, if you opt to use them. Serve chilled, with slivered almonds and orange rounds as garnish.

Cajun Potato salad

6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of sea salt

1/2 to 1 red salad onion, depending on how much onion you can stand.

1 container of Cajun Finishing butter. ( Available at Publix) You could substitute a stick of regular butter melted and a tablespoon of Cajun or Creole seasoning( Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning). Also- McCormick sells Cajun Spices Mix.

Add the butter to the hot , drained potatoes. Mix well. Add the mayonnaise and onion and mix well. Add more mayonnaise, salt or spices to taste. I garnished this with sage leaves.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Retirement Carry-in (Southernese for Pot Luck)

I had only 24 hours notice that we were having a carry-in for a co-worker who is retiring. I worked all night, slept five hours, and then assembled these three dishes. A Greek Salad. Pineapple Ricotta Pudding with Almonds. Cajun Potato Salad. No time to post recipes today-

Monday, May 24, 2010

Zucchini Tomato Tian

This vegetable tian is easy to assemble and tastes better cold than it does hot.

3 small zucchini, sliced into rounds.

2 sliced tomatoes

Extra virgin olive oil

sea salt to taste

1/8 cup chopped up fresh basil and fresh thyme. Or you can use a teaspoon or two of dried herbes de provence.

Put the zucchini and tomato slices in a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and coat the slices in it. Layer then in a casserole dish and sprinkle with sea salt. Put the chopped herbs on top of the vegetables. Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes or until zucchini is soft and tasty. Serve warm or cold.

Too simple to be obvious

These are home-made tortilla chips fried in a small Salton deep fat fryer. I cut flour tortillas into triangles, and fried them in batches using canola oil. They are so superior to anything that comes from a bag. They are not salty, but have a lovely, nutty crunchiness. I made them to go with a pot of black bean soup I made yesterday. I think a small fryer is a good investment. Frying in a pan means smoke and spatter and even humiliation at setting off the smoke alarm. I have as many useless kitchen appliances as anyone else, but the fryer is not one of them. I dredged some oysters in House Avery breading and fried them this weekend. I made an oyster Po Boy sandwich with the leftovers. Impossible without the fryer. And the tortilla chips used a minimum of canola. No need to fill up the fryer with lots of oil.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Camp Interlaken- Sharon, Vermont. Summer of 1971 - Part 2

Looking back almost 40 years I feel sadness for many of the young campers at Camp
Interlaken. How many knew that they had grown too old to come back the next summer? Who knew how many summers the camp had left? After mid-way ,they were headed again into uncertainty- away from a place that had become their summer father and mother.

As for me, my future was on the other side of August. Senior nursing. Nine months before graduation, state boards, and my first job. I was restless. I missed Hanover. I missed the bookstore, the movies. I missed my friends. There was something of Lotus Land at the Camp, and I wanted to get away. I began to count down the days. I wrote letters to Mary Ellen Bean and Christine Kelsey, my two best friends. "Tell us more about Uncle Bunny and the rich girls", they begged. Uncle Bunny's name alone made them laugh.

I continued to pass out bandaids, and to watch over my girls. Sweet- tempered Su-Su was my favorite, though I tried not to show favoritism. I took the campers on field trips to the beaver lodge, and we hunted for wildflowers. We turned over stones looking for that little salamander, the red eft. I paid little attention to the excitement growing over the swim meet with a rival girls' camp. It was one of the biggest events of every summer. Interlaken usually won, though this year winning looked unlikely. The Interlaken team was weak.

I heard all this talk, and I did not care. I cannot remember the name of the rival camp. I doubt I ever knew it..

But I began to hear things about what Bunny Dudley planned to do to make sure his camp won.

For there was one girl at the camp who could ensure victory. She was the Vermont state high school champion in the Butterfly. The problem was that she was a local girl. She worked in the camp kitchen. Bunny Dudley brought her in as a ringer. He passed her off as a camper, and Interlaken won.

It was not long after this that the camp cook, a man who liked to drink a bit, got into an argument with Uncle Bunny, then drove away in the night. Uncle Bunny and his wife were now cook and bottle washer. I could not wait for Beano and Kelsey to read this news.

The final camp fire came. I stood up to talk about the lake and the beaver lodge and the crayfish. A beaver swam by as if I had willed it, and I felt like a magician.

On the last day I collected my check. It was smaller than I expected. My hard won free orange Speedo was not free. Bunny Dudley had deducted its cost from my pay.I was angry, but it was Virginia who marched to his office and came back with a new check.

I never saw Ginny or Norm again, nor any of the girls. Bunny Dudley died of cancer not long after.

The history of Camp Interlaken was over.

Camp Interlaken- Sharon, Vermont. Summer of 1971-Part 1

I have no photo of the old Camp Interlaken, so I will hope that my words, and your imagination will suffice. This is a memoir of the summer I spent there in 1971. It is not a camper's reminiscence. I worked there. I consider this part of my "Annals of Nursing" series, but
since I was out of class for the summer I decided to forget sequence and present this now.

I could have spent the summer between my junior and senior year at Mary Hitchcock Memorial School of Nursing working as a nurse's aide or as a clerk at Dick Hall's House- otherwise known as the Dartmouth Infirmary. That is what I did the summer between my freshman and junior year. But my friend Helen, a medical records clerk I knew from the year before I entered nursing school, had heard about something more interesting. Helen and her daughter lived in an apartment on the top floor of an old house down near the end of Hanover's Rope Ferry Road. Her neighbor was "Uncle Bunny" Dudley, owner and director of a pricey and exclusive girls' camp in Sharon, Vermont.Uncle Bunny , who had a weekend RN at his camp, needed someone to man the Infirmary during the week. I was not an RN yet, but that did not faze Uncle Bunny. The rich don't keep their money by giving it away, and I was a cheap god-send. Not only could I run the Band-aid station, I could baby-sit 4 eight year olds as a counselor in their cabin. And that was not to be all. I was to be a Nature counselor as well, since I was a birdwatcher and a lover of natural history. I do not remember that I even earned $200.00 that summer.

I live now where lakes are chained rivers- great inland seas impounded by TVA and the Army Corps of Engineers. They are beautiful, but they do not have the charm of real lakes- quiet North Country lakes dug by glaciers, surrounded by hemlocks. Haunted by loons' cries and the distant sound of a beaver slapping its tail. Camp Interlaken was on one of these.

A classmate with a car drove me over to Sharon.I was car less, and if I wanted a respite from camp ,I would have to depend on the other counselors. I would soon learn how little I had in common with them. They came from money and manners. I did not. On the social scale of the Dudleys I was just the Help- right down there with the working class man from New Jersey, who was the Camp's cook.

I remember only two of the girls in my cabin. One was Su-Su Dudley, and as I remember, she was Uncle Bunny's niece. The other girl was the daughter of the Camp's Activities Director ,a blond divorcee who wore green golf skirts and Liberty patterned blouses. I had the impression that this woman's work was paying for her daughters 'camp.

The Camp's real nurse was Virginia, and she arrived with her husband Norm. They were the least snooty of the people I met that summer, outside of the cook and his wife. Ginny and Norm and the girl campers would be my only friends at Camp Interlaken. I never talked to Uncle Bunny , though I did get directives from Mrs Dudley. Conversation with her was not a two way street.

After communal dinner in the Mess Hall ,I went back to my cabin to spend my first night with my girls. Do all camp cabins smell like pine and the campers' wool Indian patterned blankets? Are there always bats skittering through the trees? It would be a quiet night. Though many campers came year after year it would take them a few days to get up to the evening hi-jinks like the "Barn-yard".

Screaming woke me. The Activities Director's daughter. Not screams of fear, but screams of loss. It would happen again on other nights. Sometimes she would sleep-walk. I asked the girl's mother. "She does that", she said.

Ginny told me later about young girls who lived in boarding schools all winter and in camps all summer. They saw their parents on holidays, and if mother and father showed up unexpectedly at Camp, chances were it was to tell their daughter they were divorcing.

The Infirmary was my station during the day, Cotton balls, iodine. Gauze.Thermometers. Tongue depressors. It was not fancy. I loved it. It had a porch where I could sit through those wonderful Vermont days of a steady, gentle rain. It faced the lake. Up through the trees came the happy screams of girls in water. I never saw anything more serious than a scrape, though I recall someone tumbled off a horse, and was sent to the doctor by the Horse-Girls before I even heard about it Girls with epilepsy took medicine, but everyone else seemed healthy. No girl tried to get out of activities because of aches or pains or their periods.These were the last years before doctors drugged children.

Yet there did seem to be a shadow over the camp. Everyone whispered about a camper who had drowned, though I believe she drowned at Camp Interlaken's first home in New Hampshire. I think this haunted the Dudleys. I know it haunted the campers.

Weekends were best for me, because Ginny and Norm were there, and I had someone to talk to. When I told Norm I couldn't swim, he decided to teach me and he made Uncle Bunny promise to give me a free lifeguards' orange Speedo bathing suit if I learned.I never could do the crawl or the butterfly, but I could breast stroke for hours. I earned my little orange suit.

On Saturday nights when the counselors went out they occasionally asked me to go with them, One night we drove in to the Norwich Inn for dinner, and I remember the dark country road back to Sharon and the huge Cecropia moths in our headlights. I think the counselors asked me out of noblesse oblige. They knew I was a peasant. One of them had pointed it out one night in Mess Hall. I had never heard one couldn't use just any spoon for soup. They snickered about this.

Other Saturday nights Norm brought his crayfish traps, and by ten the picnic tables were covered by newspaper and boiled crayfish, red and juicy. These dinners were counselors only.

Yet the campers had their precious rituals too. There was the "Barnyard", straight out of "Where The Wild Things Are". Lights would go out. The Dudleys were tucked into their bed, and all at once from all corners of the woods came the neighing of horses, the grunting of pigs, the mooing of cows, the crowing of roosters. The girls delighted in it. Any outrage from Uncle Bunny or the counselors was ceremonial- what was camp without a Barnyard? There was no punishment.

And then there were the Camp and council fires. Memories of being one young girl's voice among a multitude singing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and "Green Grow the rushes" would let anyone go happily to their grave.

One evening Uncle Bunny held a slide show to educate everyone about a camper with an unusual background. Unusual for a WASP camp, anyway. This camper was tiny, dark-eyed Carmen- all of 6 years old. Every Sunday a bus came for Carmen to drive her into town for Mass at the town's Catholic church. I remember watching it, and her, drive away .. Now we would all see Carmen's country and Carmen's house. Her country, was I believe, Venezuela, and her house was palatial and surrounded by high fences, German Shepherds, and serious
-looking men with sub machine guns. I believe Uncle Bunny said this little girl's
family was in the oil business.

Ginny, always looking out for me, found something else I could do for money that summer. One of the campers needed some tutoring in reading before she went back to school. Would I be interested? The girl's father owned a storied US corporation.He needed a daughter who could graduate.

I tried hard, but it was not to be. The poor girl was impervious. I gave up. No matter how rich her father was, I could not take his money.

As mid-season approached I was procrastinating about a mandatory overnight outdoors sleep away with my girls. I do not sleep on the ground. I do not rough it. The thought of lying in a sleeping bag in a Vermont cow pasture was awful. But I had to go.

The night was chill. By midnight the ground was wet with dew and so were our sleeping bags. There would be no sleep for me on this miserable ground. "Are there bears?', one of my girls asked.

"Just cows", I said. Had there been bears, we could have gone back to the cabin. The girls had fun, but I was sick from lack of sleep through the next day.

Thus concludes Part 1. Part 2 will cover the second half of the summer, an inter-camp swim meet, and Uncle Bunny's travails with his camp's cook.

View towards the entrance to Percy Warner Park at Belle Meade Boulevard

My friend Sharon Rose and I walked this loop this morning. The ruellia, or wild petunia is blooming. The road was open here, but all the off road and hiking trails are closed until further notice. Trees down and mud slides everywhere. That is what 18 inches of rain in 2 days during the Great Flood of 2010 did.

A Heritage Rose in my foyer garden

Here is my foyer garden this morning. The pink rose is "Caldwell Pink". I bought it from the Antique Rose Emporium in 1993. They say they collected it at an old Texas homestead. It is hardy,disease-free, and ever blooming. It can be dug up and divided like a perennial in early spring. I have room for only one rose, though I thought about buying a pink "Knock Out". But why bother since those roses are so ubiquitous that I see them in everyone else's garden?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The World is Your Pantry

It is one am, and I am up housecleaning and wondering why I can no longer sleep for more than three hours at a time-No matter. I happened on a great recipe tonight on a blog called "West of Persia". Bria is the young woman of Persian heritage who writes the blog. I made her "Turkish Coffee pudding" in under 2 minutes, and it is wonderful. I used a couple teaspoons of strong brewed coffee instead of Turkish coffee powder. I used slivered almonds instead of pistachios. All I did was put 15 oz of Ricotta cheese, a handful of slivered almonds, 1/4 cup sugar, a half teaspoon of ground cardomon, and a 3 tablespoons of strong coffee in the food processor. I pulsed it till it was pudding, tasted, then put it in a bowl to chill till morning.What a filling this would be for crepes! What a frosting for a cake.This also made me think more about Ricotta. How about Ricotta pudding made with Guava jelly of Fig jam? Thank you Bria.

For the photo I garnished the pudding with mint sprigs and slivered almonds.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cajun Clam Chowder

This is a dish I invented. The Cajun part comes from the Cajun Finishing Butter some of the better groceries here sell. I found it at Publix. There are clams in the South. I have seen them. Farmers raise them on Cedar Key. They keep seed clams in sheds on stilts . Then they plant them on nets they take out to sea. Later they harvest them. The farmers dry the nets in the driveways of their cottages.But I confess I used canned diced clams for this recipe.Here is what you need.

2 6.5oz cans of diced clams. Add their liquor to the chowder.

4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced.

1 yellow onion, diced.

4 tablespoons Cajun Finishing butter.

1 cup of heavy cream

Sea salt to taste

Fresh ground black pepper- a few twirls of the grinder.

Pre-boil the potatoes till soft, but not so much that they turn to mush.
Saute the onions in the butter till they are soft and sweet.
Put everything into a sauce pan until heated through.Use low to medium heat. Let the flavors mingle. You may even want to add more of the butter to taste.

This chowder is rich, but good. Makes enough for 2 servings.

It's me again- The Beagle Blogger

Since my last post The Little It and I have had some issues with our owner. She was the one who fed us roasted lamb one night. It did not agree with us ,which she found out when she came home from work and saw the living room rug.It was not our fault. What were we supposed to do? Another night she threw a dog food can into the trash under the sink.It still had a little in it she could have scraped out for me. So I opened the cabinet door and helped myself. This got the Little It going. I divided the scraps with him. Ritz crackers. A cocoa pouch. Some coffee grounds. I had dragged the trash can into the living room, and She was mad again when she came home. Now she props a stool in front of the cabinet door before she leaves.

Then last week Little It tore all the stuffing out of a pillow and dragged it all over the bedroom. She can't afford a new pillow so She re stuffed it. Last night my little friend did it again. It was only a pillow! She could not have been too angry because she fed us macaroni and chicken she brought home from the Cafetorium of the Big Hospital. She didn't think too much of it, but we thought it was delicious.

She is not taking us to the park anymore because it flooded and had mudslides and trees falling over.She is afraid a hill will collapse on us. Now we walk at the apartments, and sit at the door looking at the bird feeder. Well that is it from Nashville. I am trying to get a nap in. Little It is on Chipmunk Patrol. Good night. And may you dream of rabbits.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Someone from the class of 1970 at MHMH contacted me last week. I, in error, deleted your address. My name is Elizabeth Sprague, and always has been.I have never married. My best friends at school were Mary Ellen Bean and Christine Kelsey. Please leave your name again.

Bury my heart in Nashville

It was once said by an Englishwoman writer that in late life one is ready for impersonal passions. Having just turned 60, I can say this is true for me. My passions now are places and not people.My great loves are the city of Nashville, the Gulf Coast,and Reelfoot Lake. Every one of them now ruined or threatened. Edwin Warner Park, where I have walked for 30 years is closed- too dangerous after the flooding. One goes to Kroger for sandwiches and every other word overheard is loss or lost.The streets choke with pickups and dump trunks and restorers.The stores have hanging baskets of geraniums for everyone lucky enough to live on the high ground .But none of us truly live on the high ground. We are at the mercy of time and fate.I think of my African coworker Emmanuel, who lost his home on Pennington Bend. My old neighbors Allison and Elizabeth and Sam. Of John and Beverly with their cats and camellias.Best now to remember Emily Dickinson-" Hope is the thing with feathers. That perches in the soul.And sings the tunes- without the words. And never stops at all..'

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Harpeth River

This quiet stretch of river glimpsed through the trees is the Harpeth, and I have lived in sight of it for 30 years. Yet tonight, when I stepped out of my apartment to get my dogs out, I heard the Harpeth flooding the Ensworth High School and transformers exploding. We have received close to 18 inches of rain in two days in this part of Nashville, and the Harpeth has overrun us. I saw aerial footage of the flooding tonight on a local station. Bellevue Tennessee is a lake now. I just heard that 180 cars are stranded out on Interstate 40, their drivers still in them. Who could believe that this quiet river, beloved of kayakers and canoers, could be capable of this?

Well, I can. The natural world does not live by our rules. It does not oblige us by being convenient. It is untrustworthy. Crops fail. Droughts come. We forget that rivers are powers, as inexorable as Time. We forget. We are stupid and pave over the watershed. We build on floodplains because no one remembers what rivers do. I remember, as a child growing up in Connecticut, the day my father drove me to Farmington to see the flooding on the Farmington River. Houses to their roofs in water. I remember visiting my grandmother in Ansonia, Connecticut when the Naugatuck River flooded. We stood and watched televisions and washing machines bobbing downstream.

Yet- I bought a house on the Harpeth , and it is now in the Harpeth. Thank God I no longer own it. The river was too close. I am sad for my old neighbors with their greenhouses and swing sets. For the neighbor who grew a Lady Banks rose on his porch pillar. For the Kurdish family up the street, proud in their home.

Flooding in Nashville

One thunderstorm after another for the past two days, and it is not safe to drive out to see what is happening. My apartment is on a hill, but the house I once owned is in a neighborhood reported to be under water. I hear one siren after another coming down Old Hickory Boulevard. A friend who lives on Huntwick Trail says the road to her house is a river, and that she has no power. I have lived here almost thirty years, and have never seen flooding like this. I took the photo off my porch. At one point the wind was blowing so hard it was pushing the water in the parking lot uphill! If it ever stops raining I may walk down to Highway 100 to see what the Harpeth River is doing.