Floods really change the landscape, usually only temporarily, but sometimes permanently. This past week I’ve watched the “off the beaten path” intersection near our home gradually become a small stretch of rapids in the Grand River, and a popular viewing spot for the neighborhood locals. It seems that intersection is within the 100-year flood plain of the river, and we’re experiencing a 100 year flood, worst since 1904. Fortunately our home is located above the 500 year flood plain and in no danger.
Each day has demanded the obligatory pilgrimage to observe just how much higher the water has risen, until Monday morning when the river crested and began to recede. I even drove through that intersection several times while I could still see the centerline through the gradually deepening water which wasn’t reaching the differentials and axles on my SUV, and still avoid the stretch of forcefully flowing water that could have shoved me off the road. Later, it was fun to stand at the edge of the flood waters and see a river where the golf course was, that stretch of rapids where the road used to be, a huge lake where a fifty acre or so pond once stood separated from the marsh and sand mining excavations by a two-track and loads of scrub trees and bushes. I wondered if the road would still be there, or washed away with the receding water. I assumed the golf course would survive; it always has with minimal damage.
Eventually the paved road was less than a foot beneath the surface, but invisible beneath the brown floodwaters. The heavy current was enough to push smaller vehicles off the pavement, but large tow trucks and pickups with at least a foot of ground clearance, their drivers practicing a huge amount of caution and care, were able to get through to the airport. Stupid? Maybe, maybe not. Most drivers didn’t take the chance that the road may have washed out under the river, and just stayed on solid ground. Smart people? Most likely.
Two kayakers and a canoeing couple had to be rescued from the river this week, having ventured out onto the water despite warnings from local authorities to keep away due to the extreme flow rates of over 33,000 cubic feet per second. Were they risk-taking adventurers, or just plain stupid? The kayaker who helped rescue the canoeists had been told he was stupid by law enforcement the day before, and yet there he was, the very next day out on the river again, and quite likely saved two lives on the journey. Was he a thoroughly prepared and expert kayaker, or a stupid one who through dumb luck happened to be in the right place at the right time to save two other possibly stupid people.
Some people do what would appear to be dumb things, but they’ve thought about it, learned about it, prepared for it, learned the necessary limits, and taken appropriate precautions before taking on the risk. Some people just choose to do really dumb things, to take big risks. Stupidity enters the picture when people leave out the learning, preparation and precaution steps.
I’m a normally risk averse person. Did I drive through a flooded intersection? Yes. Did I know what was going on and what could happen? Yes. Was I prepared? Yes. Did I know what the limits were? Yes. Did I take precautions? Yes.
I think there’s a metaphor for life in the flood and the behaviors I observed this week. Yes, life is a do it yourself adventure. But you don’t have to be stupid about it. Consider the choices, learn, prepare, know the limits, take the precautions, and go live it.
If life is my first, last and greatest crusade, here’s hoping I’m choosing wisely, not poorly …