Friday, May 10, 2024

Poetry Friday: "Water" (an ode to the recent sump pump failure)

Welcome to the "Drying Out the Basement" edition of Poetry Friday. 

Do you have a sump pump? Do you know what happens when your sump pump malfunctions during an extremely rainy April? I hope you don't know. I hope you never know. 

On the other hand, this recent incident could be considered child's play compared to some of my past dances with water. 

My first experience with flooding — later dubbed "The Great Flood" of Fairbanks, Alaska — was when I was seven years old. My father was stationed there and we were living temporarily in a basement apartment until base housing became available. After heavy summer rains, the Chena River overflowed. Our entire apartment filled with water. This is how we left the apartment complex: 

I don't remember the three nice men who whisked us away, but the other occupants of the boat were my mom (holding my little brother), me (pointing at something), and my sister (waving). 

Here are a couple of photos of the aftermath as the flood waters were starting to recede. (Don't worry about that hair! It's just my mother's wig!) 

Given that I have this joyous little occasion on my flood resume, I suppose our recent experience barely rates a mention. No boats were needed in our basement the night the water came in, though at times it felt like a raft might come in handy. (I exaggerate. A little. There was much bailing of water.) Still, I don't recommend losing a sump pump. It's been a long, messy, stressful time. 

Oh, water! The gift that sometimes feels like a curse. Ralph Waldo Emerson understood it so well. 


by Ralph Waldo Emerson 

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.



elli said...

O, Water! Giver of life … and yet: destroyer …

So sorry about the pump/basement, ergh … I live on a high hill, no sump pump needed — however! Many trees here, so much entanglement of water pipes with hair-like infant rootlets, and so: the main floor drain backs up once a year or so. Bless the roto rooter workers (barbers for drains) who come to clear the drains (a pump wouldn't work: the roots need to be cut out). So. I feel your pain! We go down to check the basement year-round — learnt my lesson many years ago when, since we had not done laundry for several days, had not been down there, and when we did go down, had several days' worth of kitchen and bath usage … you can imagine … 🫣🤢😖…

Linda B said...

Let's hope you have only a tiny bit of "elegant destroy", Karen! I am so sorry, but happy it was not as bad as that childhood time! I know about sump pumps but have never had one! I helped a family long ago whose home was flooded by the Missouri River--much mud, had to watch for snakes! I really believe it made ma look at the whole world and grow up a little, to realize not everything is goodness. Best wishes for a good cleanup!

Tabatha said...

What a story you have, from your Alaska days! I'm sorry you've been dealing with sump pump problems :( I hope you have things entirely back to normal before too long.

Linda Mitchell said...

"well used..." ha! I've never seen this poem before. It's true and unfortunately pairs well with the sump pump fail. So sorry to see that. I hope you can recover quickly.

TraceyKJ said...

Oh no! A basement apartment and an overflowing river! The picture of you leaving the apartment as a child is heartbreaking. What a mess it left behind – and your mother’s poor wig! So sorry about your recent sump pump experience as well. Thank you for sharing your pictures and the poem. “Elegantly destroy” says it all!

Bridget Magee said...

The perfect post to explain 'water you up to', Karen. I'm sorry you've added another wet experience to your "flood resume". You'd think your Alaskan water rescue would have been enough for a lifetime!

Karen Edmisten said...

elli, oh, tree roots can wreak havoc! I know just what you mean. I'm so sorry you have to deal with that regularly!

Thanks, Linda B.! This was nothing compared to your friends and the Mighty Mo — yikes!

Tabatha, thanks, and yes, we are getting there!

Linda M., I had never seen this poem before either! I was searching around for poems about water and this seemed perfect. Unfortunately. :D

Tracey, thanks. Since I was so young, I don't really know how much stuff my parents lost in that flood. (The wig, obviously.) :) But I'm sure plenty of stuff was still in storage since we were in temporary quarters, so that was a blessing.

Bridget, leave it to you to come up with such apt wordplay, lol! I'm heading over to your blog to find out "water you up to" as well. :)

Marcie Flinchum Atkins said...

Oh no! Our dishwasher went on the fritz this week and I was complaining about that, but I'd much rather have to wash dishes by hand than deal with a flooded basement. So sorry! Hope you dry out soon!

Jone said...

Oh wow, what a post. The childhood experience looks terrifying. I hope your sump pump troubles dry up soon.

Denise Krebs said...

Karen, wow! I'm so glad you have the photos of your childhood flood experience. I'm so glad you all were okay. Water is perhaps the most vital ingredient to sustain life, and yet it is a mighty destroyer. Emerson's poem describes that well. I am a proud member of the "sump pump overwhelmed" club. We had 12 inches of rain overnight. Fortunately the insurance covered our flooded basement, and my daughter and her college friends came over and pulled up carpet and ruined things. All the best to you as you continue to clean up and dry out.

Rose Cappelli said...

So sorry to hear, Karen. I hope things get back to normal soon. I wasn't familiar with that Emerson poem. I wonder what his inspiration was. Might he have experienced some flooding, too?

laurasalas said...

Oh no! We had a sump pump for 25 years. What a mess that must be! I hope you're able to get life sorted soon. Thanks for sharing this Emerson poem. I don't know it, and it's fabulous!

Karen Edmisten said...

Denise, my father did an amazing job of scanning loads of pictures from the past onto his computer. I'm so grateful he did that! I'm sorry you're a member of the club! TWELVE INCHES OF RAIN OVERNIGHT? That is far worse than what we got. Wow! Never again, we hope!

Rose, I wondered the same thing. What did he experience/observe?

Laura, it is a great poem, isn't it? Our sump pump worked so beautifully, until one day it didn't. :)

Michelle Kogan said...

So sorry to hear about your sump pump fiascos, and water deluge… While I haven't had a sump pump we do have a stand pipe and when the water comes even the mighty stand pipe can't bare to hold it all. Hope this too passes soon and you find drier ground. Thanks for Emerson's "Water" poem, he seems to know it well!