Runoff

The water had a place to get to, and it was in a hurry

by Lyda Phillips

The rain began Friday, intensified Saturday. The dogs went to their bunkers. I went to the back door, looking out at the rain. It beat down on grass we should have cut before the rains came and now seemed to be visibly growing. Water ran down the yard, churning up the bare track the dogs created playing the fence game with the neighbors' dogs. The runoff was minutely held back from our foundation by the rather lame calico rock "patio" we built this spring. The two-by-fours that hold the rock in place turned the water slightly to the east, where it ran down the sidewalk next to the house, instead of pooling into a mud pit at our back door.

I went to the front door, observed water pouring like a waterfall all along the gutters we should have cleaned before the rains came. It rained harder. An ankle-high stream of water rushed down the front walk, then out into the street, and then down a steep hill—into the hole, as we call it. I wondered how deep the water was down in the hole, but the lightning was so incessant I was afraid to venture out. The water in the street rose steadily up the tires of our cars parked at the curb. I imagined the little Scion gently floating down a waterfall into the hole, bobbing off on new adventures.

Late Sunday, more than forty-eight hours of torrential rain finally became a drizzle. I dragged the dogs from their secret hiding places and went out to Shelby Park. The little stream that gently trickles through the golf course had become raging white water. I was afraid that ninety-five-pound Cid, who loves jumping in and out of the water but is scared if he can't touch bottom, would be swept away and sucked through the pipe that carried the flood into the lake, which had overflowed its banks. I called him back to me.

Other people emerged in ones and twos and threes, with dogs and without, all looking pale and both shell-shocked and excited. The river now covered the ball field. A dead woodchuck floated belly-up among the bobbing plastic bottles. Canada geese swam through the debris, unperturbed.

Walking back up the hill, everywhere water hurried down, in trickles through the grass, in rivulets down the sides of the road, in waterfalls and rapids down the channel of a normally nearly invisible stream. I crossed over and went to look at Cave Springs. The last time I'd visited, it was a damp and forbidding cave overgrown with weeds and suggesting snakes, dead and waterless. Now it rushed out from the rocks, clean and strong, scouring the cave clean. Sweating from the muggy heat, I shoved my arms into the cold spring and felt the water's urgent desire to hurry, hurry, down, down, to swell the rising river.

Published Friday, 7 May 2010