Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Flood into Art: Part 2

For those of you who missed my blog last week, parts of southern Alberta recently flooded. Calgary remains in a state of emergency.

The weather has turned hot, muggy, hatching bumper mosquito crops. They are only one of the bad bugs that Alberta Health Services is warning us about. Good bugs, the ones that enable the water treatment plants to work efficiently, were wiped out by the flood, but the waste treatment plant workers started new batches. They’re pleased to report that a splendid proliferation of good bugs are making our water safer every day.

River flows have returned to normal, but the river banks are eroded, undercut, and precarious. We have been warned in no uncertain terms to stay away. A man sitting on a bank a couple of days ago tumbled down inches from the river; the Fire Department rescued him.

8,000 to 10,000 people will be out of their homes for months or forever. 140 buildings—single family homes, apartment buildings, and businesses—are undergoing secondary assessments to see if they are damaged enough to require demolished. The people from those buildings include high-risk elderly people from three downtown apartments. Many of them have been bussed to Olds College an hour-and-a-half away, which offered their dormitories as temporary living space. Thank you, Olds College.

There is no way to say enough thanks to the volunteer YYC Flood Angels. (YYC is the code for the Calgary Airport, and it’s used on Twitter as well). Thousands of volunteers continue to show up every day at work parties, some in self-organized groups who are bussed into the most damaged neighborhoods from a transportation hub at one of the local universities, some with organized clean-ups like the 250 people who spent Sunday on Prince’s Island, doing incredible manual labor to remove tons of silt and mud from the island.

Parts of the Calgary Zoo remain without power, but structural engineers have okayed all of the habitats as being safe for animal return. In good zoo news, two giraffes that became ill from stress and refused to eat, have stabilized and are eating again.

In other good news, Sheldon the turtle and all the other school animals, were safely rescued from an elementary school in a flooded evacuation area. Repair crews working at City Hall have taken it upon themselves to feed the employees’ fish, water their plants, and removed all spoiled food from staff refrigerators so that people won’t return to rotten food odors.

The mayor had no idea there were so many pet fish in his building. He said there were certain questions he learned not to ask.

There was a misprint in information for people doing cleanup. It read, “Please read proper books.” It should have read, “Please wear proper boots.” The mayor says it’s important to read proper books, too, but maybe later.

Speaking of books, library checkouts have resumed, at 10 items per patron, “even for the mayor,” according to one librarian. The main library remains closed with two feet of water in its basement that can’t be pumped out until the groundwater table drops. The oldest library in Calgary, a beautiful 1912 Carnegie building, is also closed indefinitely because of flood damage. (Update July 2, the library in the Carnegie building opened this morning.)

Many people, me included, feel betwixt and between. The worst has happened; the worst is still to come. Those would be different kinds of worsts, of course. Today I wrote a scene where one of my characters was just fired. His wife asks, “How are you?” He says, “You know how when the dentist pulls a tooth, you’re fine until the anesthetic wears off. I’m waiting for the anesthetic to wear off.” So are a lot of people in southern Alberta.

The art project this week is a Between mobile. So if you are between yourself—between books, between ideas, between life changes—or know someone who is, here’s a mobile for encouragement.

Go here for a .pdf of the mobile line drawing. Copy it, decorate it, and write yourself or someone else encouraging messages on the back. Put it together with thread or fishing line and hang it some place that it can gently sway in the breeze.

Quote for the week
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
~Anne Lamott, writer and journal keeper


Kath Marsh said...

Sharon, thank you for keeping us updated. Is there something we can do from here in the States?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for asking, Kath. There are a number of organizations collecting donations. You can find them all on-line

Canadian Red Cross
Drop In Centre, Calgary
Alberta Humane Society
Calgary Zoo

State that your donation is for Calgary Flood Relief.

And you guys are doing a lot to keep me sane just by being here.