This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 High Water – Twelve

And what is the mood of the river these days? The introduction to Riverlogue suggests that the mood of the river changes as the seasons pass, and so it does. Sometimes the mood is only slightly altered, sometimes the change is dramatic, like now. Actually, I believe how we perceive the mood is irrelevant. The river doesn’t care. It has no malice toward us, or no joy for that matter. It simply is. But for itself, only for itself, there is meaning in its stages. In the summer when the water is low and warm, and moves southward in a slow and lazy way, there is the possibility of imagining an old man in a rocking chair with a cup of black coffee in his hand. Rocking very slowly on the front porch, avoiding the cat lying on the floor, nervously asleep. Perhaps there is a pipe in his mouth and a can of Prince Albert giving a permanent shape to his hip pocket. He looks contented with his world and not too prone to making rapid moves. He is resting and satisfied for the moment.

It is also possible to see him as he is now, an athlete of supreme power running far and fast, spreading wide his body to cover his world in water filled with silt and nutrients. I can imagine his mood now as joyous and vibrant. He is a builder now, laying a covering of soil onto his banks, ironically making it harder to overflow every time an overflow takes place. He pulls into his current things that are finished with their purposes for the land, old trees and other loose items – including the manmade objects that are not secured. All this he gathers and distributes to other places. Should humans chance to come too close, he can be a merciless force, pushing back at them. Merciless but without malice. Wise people will know the river’s power and avoid an encounter, others calculate the odds and take their chances, building in places they know to be at risk.

But there is something about being on intimate terms with the river seasons, both the old man and the athlete, that draws us to take those chances. We know that a close encounter will not end well for us, but we build as close to the river as we can anyway. We, like the other people who live in Butte La Rose, know this and for some period of time we get away with it. But once in a while the old man gives rise to the powerful athlete, and we have to move out of his way if we can. What we can’t move, we sacrifice to the water. This is mainly why I have such admiration for the many houseboat people who lived in the Basin all those decades ago. They knew the river as a respected neighbor, not an adversary.

Anticipating that we would have to leave our property, I made a simple gauge that could tell us something about the river indirectly. The gauge that I made and tacked to our house was supposed to tell me how our house was faring in the rising water when we couldn’t be here to see it. We could see the river level on the internet and see where that would be on the gauge, and imagine water at that level. Not as good as being here, but better than knowing nothing at all. Perhaps we won’t need this tool after all, if we are allowed to stay.

The river is at 21.7 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising about six inches a day to reach 24.5 feet by the 27th. This might cause some disruptions, and some house flooding in low areas, but nowhere near what would have happened if we would have gotten 29 feet, as first predicted. The crest is not the end of it. The athlete is running a long distance race, and the water will be with us for quite a while.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Corrick family said...

I love the similes, and I'm so glad that so far you and your wife get to stay at home to watch the athlete run its race. What lively things, these rivers we share our lives with. The mighty Rio Grande here ain't so grand these days, a canoe trip upstream is the order of the day - hike in pulling your boat and provisions for the day in Santa Elena Canyon and hope for enough water to float and not hike back out! Wish you could share your water, but I imagine you wouldn't miss watching the power and grace that you will get to experience over the next many weeks.

May 22, 2011 10:20 AM  
Blogger shoreacres said...

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard quotes Einstein to the effect that “God is subtle but not malicious.” The same thing seems to be true of the river which, after all, T.S. Eliot called "a strong, brown God".

A friend and I were pondering your blog title's pronunciation, whether it's logue as in "log", or as in "pirogue". Given what you've said about the two natures of the river, maybe it's whichever fits the river best on a given day!

May 22, 2011 1:27 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Corrick family: I hear you. I have been told that Santa Elena Canyon makes up in rock formations what it lacks in water.

Shoreacres: I always thought of it as rhyming with dialogue. Riverlogue = a discourse upon the river.

Thanks to you both!

May 23, 2011 10:32 PM  

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