October 5, 2015

Washed Out in South Carolina

Nicolai Gogol opens his novel My Childhood with a scene from the funeral of the protagonist’s father. It is deftly told through the eyes of a child who cannot as yet fully comprehend the import of his father’s death. Instead the child focuses upon the living frogs haplessly swept into the grave along with the dirt that was being piled upon the coffin. He watches with alarm as the frogs futilely try to struggle up the sides of the grave and are just as persistently knocked down the hole again by the dirt falling off shovels. Walking back from the funeral the child asks his grandmother if the frogs will live. "I don’t think so," came her stalwart reply.

I thought of this piece of Russian literature when looking at my now flooded basement/studio/garage. Fortunately I was not storing too many perishable objects down there due to the lack of temperature control and the tendency towards water accumulation. But I may have lost my kiln and it will take time for the hot water heater to dry out, the gasket replaced and the pilot light relit. But I was not looking most ardently at those things. I was looking at the feeble drain in front of the garage. It was an antique sort of thing...a wrought iron grate with large elliptical holes on top of a carved out area of cement and equally antique drain pumps inside to siphon the water off to lower ground. In the preceding months of dry weather this drain had become the residence of two toads. I named them Richard and Wilbur, observing their habits and dutifully feeding them every day. I even built a small toad house for them on higher and safer ground. They stayed there for a while then returned to their preferred drain abode, as it offered a seemingly safe and cool haven, rich with attractive crawling food.

Now the drain was under six inches of water. Pictures of desperate flooded out cities and equally desperate people in South Carolina have been flooding the media all day yesterday and today. Yet I could not help but think of those two toads in the drain. Did they live?

I intended to work on writing about my illustration work for sonnets or finish a landscape I was working on. But the constant battering rain and the images on the news were just too great a distraction. And there was that nagging question about the lives of two toads. I finally dispensed with the toads and brought myself back to the question of clean up by making a small illustration of Wilbur the Toad escaping from his flooded drain home. I submit my illustration of a South Carolina Toad escaping the great flood of 2015.

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