I am in the flood, and the flood is in me.
In the year of 1993, the mighty Mississippi River flooded its banks and spread out over 30,000 square miles. It was one of the greatest deluges in its history, second only to the great flood of 1927. By October of 1993, the flood waters finally started to recede—and that was the month and year that I was born.
My mother and father were fishing on the Mississippi River near Louisiana, Missouri during the height of the Flood of ‘93. Of course, this means that my mother was pregnant with me at that time. Before I was even born, I was being gently rocked by flood waters while my parents fished off their old John boat. They camped along the flooded banks in a cramped camper for a week during that summer. Perhaps, then, it is no wonder that I am drawn to the high, muddy water and the sound of the rain. The flood is in my blood.
The river is in my father, and in those that came before him.
The river is in my father's blood, too. He was taken to the Mississippi River at a young age and fell in love with the water and wildlife, and in turn he instilled that in me. Many a summer day was spent boating on the Mississippi, until one day Dad decided that he was tired of the 45-minute drive to get there. He started searching for a small house— “a river shack,” he said—to purchase so we could spend multiple days out on the river without having to camp. Instead, he found a 2600 square foot ranch-style home at an unbeatable price with an incredible view; the closest house to the river in that neighborhood. The nearest boat ramp is a two-minute drive away. A conservation beach along the water stretches almost a half a mile, containing 11 acres, just behind the home. The location was perfect. That home became our River House. I was 12 years' old at the time.
We owned that house during the 2008 flood, which nearly rivaled the Flood of '93. The river came up into our yard, about four feet away from our back porch, and twelve feet away from the house itself. You couldn't get much closer to the river than that. We were able to fish right out of our back yard. Where we lived, the 2008 flood lasted for weeks. At one point, we were worried enough to sandbag around the porch to prevent any damage to it (but it didn't get that far). In 2019, another flood rose just slightly higher than the 2008 flood, but it only lasted a few days.
When I started college, I moved into the River House full time and have been living there ever since. Every day my eyes lay upon the flowing water. It is changing all of the time. For a moment it can be smooth like glass, and the next it is dark and turbulent. There are several places where the current regularly runs backwards along eddies and islands. Floods are common. They don't get all the way up to the yard very often, but over the past decade there hasn't been a year where the river stayed inside it's normal banks all summer. High water records seem meant to be broken. The deluges have become normal now.
A story old as time--great destruction, and great inspiration
Most cultures around the world tell a story of a giant flood that threatened the whole world – The Deluge itself that the Bible's Noah's Ark was built to escape. Even the oldest recorded written story that we have discovered, The Epic of Gilgamesh, has such a tale within it. A flood can damage the land, homes, and people when its banks run over. According to the Britannica, the 1927 Mississippi River flood killed approximately 250 people and further displaced 750,000. However, it also inspired songs, like "The Levee Breaks" by Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie (later covered by Led Zeppelin), as well as "Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman. The rolling waters are both dangerous and inspiring, capable of both tremendous strength and calm beauty.
They also served as the inspiration for In the Deluge. Like the mighty Mississippi, sometimes emotions can overwhelm us, drown us, and overflow out of us. Sometimes our levees break that we built up to contain them. Our emotions can whisk us away like a river, drag us down like sea serpent, and spin us around like a whirlpool. However, there also is calm, peace, and growth to be gotten from the rain. Life flourishes where there is water. We cannot live without it.
When I first conceived the theme of this poetry collection, I called it "Drowning in the Deluge". Alliteration is my jam, and I'm fascinated by the archaic word "deluge". However, as time passed, I realized: just because you're in the midst of a flood, doesn't mean you have to be drowning. I simply changed the title to "In the Deluge". It's a subtle shift, but an important one. Whether we ended up here by choice or by force, we are here, in the flood. We might even be underwater, but we are not drowning. It is a lot of water, but we are weathering it. Maybe there are days where it feels like drowning, but maybe other days we're trying to dive deeper. Some days we are floating adrift. Sometimes we're at the bottom where it's so dark we can't see, and sometimes we're so close to the surface we can breach it. We are always in it, and maybe it's even in us.
Come hell or high water, we will weather it.