Last week, my particularly old and dear friend Debra texted me and another equally dear New York City friend, Becky. Life—Debra wrote—is too much with us; time to kick free of cares and …
Last week, my particularly old and dear friend Debra texted me and another equally dear New York City friend, Becky. Life—Debra wrote—is too much with us; time to kick free of cares and simply head out into Deep Country. Becky of Harlem and I of Smallwood quickly agreed. Friday morning last we were underway to the counties of Otsego and Herkimer.
What we three experienced over the next 36 hours was of dreamlike intensity and vividness. The first morning took us to Debra’s daughter’s wedding reception venue near Gilbertville, NY. The skies were angry and blustering squalls of cold rain pelted at our faces at the top of a mountain as we drove around on a covered golfcart to visit heated guest tents and huggable goats. For lunch we drove through winding valleys draped in colorful foliage to the Ommegang in Coopersville. The Belgian-style beers were delicious and the truffled pommes frites the best of our lives. After this some icy Canadian air blew in and dispelled the clouds. As the shadows grew longer we stopped at Holy Trinity Monastery and Russian Cathedral in Jordanville where we were given tours of the glittering cathedral and neighboring Russian Museum. Chickens and children played in a garden singed by frost.
Dinner was in Gilbertsville’s premier hostelry, The Empire, built in Greek Revival style in 1835. Last July the hotel and Gilbertsville were hammered by a superflood, one of those ‘once-in-a-100/500/1000-year” inundations. The town is still reeling, trying to feel its way back to a normalcy that has perhaps expired. The Empire’s very kind and loquacious owner, a man called “Q.,” laughed while recounting how his Prius rose from the hotel parking lot and floated down to the end of his property, where floodwaters promptly junked it.
Recently I wrote about the Hurricane Ida-trashed culvert underlying Smallwood’s main road, Pine Grove. This week we have again experienced a five inch rainfall, the second in seven weeks. Continental water circulation patterns are evolving rapidly now as human-induced climate change progresses; some areas (the Southwest and South) are drying out, while others (the Northeast) are drowning. I was heartened by my recent conversation with Town Supervisor Dan Sturm about upcoming repairs to the Pine Grove culvert. Nonetheless. Watching rainwater gush just under road level at the Minnie Falls culvert Monday afternoon, I had to wonder when this essential culvert—in a ‘once in a lifetime event’—will also be junked by floodwaters. Like many others, I am asking: when is simple repair not enough. When, like the people in Otsego County, do we say that that building back better infrastructure means building to adapt now to climate change. Our new Sullivan infrastructure must be able to withstand six to ten Ida-like events per year. Per year!
We are not there yet and in the meantime, Life Is So Much With Us. How do we defeat despair given the great challenges ahead? We look in the eyes of our children. Next week is election week. Only experience and creativity will lead us forward. Organize everyone you know, then go vote.
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