This week we got rain on the Oregon Coast. Lots of rain. Lots and lots of rain. And more rain. People are saying something like this only happens once every 10 years or so, but rain is still coming, so maybe by the end we’ll add more years to the estimate. The weather and its effects really dominated the week. Tuesday’s rain caused landslides up and down the coast, shutting off Highway 101, our main connection to the rest of the world, in many different places. The rain came so fast in such massive amounts that drainage ditches and even rivers couldn’t keep up. The road to camp has become a canal that, even as I’m writing, can be kayaked. It has been a week of alternate plans, a week of improvisation.
I got rained on a lot Tuesday. On four separate occasions, I hung up or tossed clothes in the dryer after just a short stretch of time outside. It was the kind of rain that there’s no escape from. That night, I had trimmed my hair, shaved my neck, taken a hot bath, and changed into sweat pants and wool socks. I was 2/3 through my netflix DVD Starred Up, a riveting movie about a young man in the North Ireland prison system who gets sent up to an adult facility for bad behavior with a break out performance from Jack O’Connell. It’s a graphic, difficult watch, but pretty gripping. Then I got a text from Peter telling me that the Walworth basement was flooded. I paused the movie, changed into shorts, a quick-dry long sleeve shirt, and my recently dry rain jacket.
For the next few hours, we were problem solving, trying to hold off more damage, getting anything out of the basement apartment that was salvageable. We waded through the apartment, moving out a mattress, a television, sheets, rolling shelves, and a table and chair set. We found a motorized pump from the boathouse and put it to work. The damage was already done, though. The year old carpet will have to be pulled up. The walls will likely need to be gutted. The cabinets replaced. This was one of the most recently renovated rooms at camp. We know how hard our maintenance crew worked to update this room and make it nice to stay in.
In times like these, though, there isn’t really much room for frustration. Frustration would just slow things down, make the situation even more deplorable. I found while being cold and soaked in a wading pool that should have been an apartment, this overall positivity surfacing wanting to make the best of the circumstances. I know I’ll remember that Peter and I spent those hours in the rainy dark, doing our best to help an unfortunate situation. And in that shared experience, there are some positive things that will emerge.
I haven’t experienced a weather event exactly like this before, but it reminds me of the sort of emergencies we encountered from tornadoes or ice storms. Normal life gets disrupted. Schools are out. Businesses don’t run on normal hours. You might even be without power or water. It feels like some sort of weird holiday set 150 years ago.
The next day, we surveyed the damage, realizing we were nearly surrounded by water. I watched Seth, Fleming, and Kara kayak down the road to check on neighbors’ cats. We heard all the stories and watched the videos posted to facebook of sunken roads, landslides, swelling rivers. School was out for the kids, and we knew already that this wouldn’t be a normal work day. There’s a strange feeling on days like this. The world is foreign–it’s not something you feel like you know too well. There’s also this sense of liberty too, though. That change has freed you up from some sort of feeling you might not have even known you were chained to.
Peter and I went out to see the ocean at high tide. The Pacific has been very high of late, even coming past the tree line when it peaks, washing seawater and driftwood down the access trails. The waves are foamy and powerful. I’ve seen waves travel down the jetty this week that make me feel like I’ve shrunk. There’s this slight feeling that the ocean may be out of control, which reminds me it was never really under control. Peter and I stood for nearly an hour watching the sneaker waves get closer and closer. Huge pieces of driftwood were getting tossed and slammed against each other. The wind blasted sand, even the sand just made wet by the surf. Waves were crashing against Twin Rocks higher than the rocks themselves.
I tried to grab photos and video, so I could communicate what I was seeing to other people, but nothing I did made it look how it did to my eyes. I’ve had this issue plenty since moving to Oregon, but the particular issue with an angry ocean is even more pronounced. It’s really difficult to communicate the feeling you get standing in front of this great body of water on days like this. How do you show how fast and hard it’s moving? How do reproduce that sound it makes? How do you get the whole panoramic scale of everything that is in motion? I’m not skilled enough, and the camera on my phone isn’t good enough to do either. And, I realize that my words are failing me as well.
The next day, after more wind and rain, a tall spruce would come down early in the morning and take out the camp’s power, increasing that feeling of a bygone era holiday. We looked for work that didn’t require electricity or internet, we looked for ways to occupy our time without our normal comforts. Several camp families ended up in the Carrier Dining Hall. We had done a devotion, and since the building runs on a generator, it seemed like the obvious place to make dinner. The Camp Chef, Jay, had chicken that needed to be cooked. Allyson had ingredients for chicken pot pie. We pooled together our resources and had dinner as a camp family. On a trip between the kitchen and the table, I stopped to look at he setting we had prepared. A fire was blazing in the fireplace. Garland was hung in decoration for our upcoming Christmas party. The smell of warm food was wafting from the kitchen. It felt like a great hall of a castle, and we were the fortunate subjects who got to be part of it.
If it had been a normal night, no record breaking rainfall, no fallen tree power outage, we would have all probably been in our individual homes watching something on television. Looking back on my life years from now, this will stand out far more than those usual nights. I know part of that is because it is unusual. But, there’s also just the vividness of the whole thing. The sights, the smells, the tastes. What we shared.
I think about how often I enjoy the part of power outages when we light candles and watch what we use a little closer. When we go out for walks to survey the area we care for. There’s this moment when I think, “I should make time to do this even if we don’t lose power.” That moment is normally fleeting, though.
This crazy week mixed with Advent and the upcoming time I’ll spend in the South with friends and family, all the incarnations of preparation for Christmas–I’m left in this confusion, wondering what I’m feeling, what I’m wanting. I guess it fits perfectly with the spirit of Advent. There’s a longing I don’t quite understand, and I just hope I help bring it to life. I hope I communicate it to the world in a way shows the way that does justice to what it truly looks like.