Mar. 26th, 2009

chavvah: (from history)
I sat in bed for a while this morning and listened to the CBC talking about the river. Which is what a lot of us do every spring, I think.

This river rules our lives. Seeing the ice start to break up on the river means spring is coming; the first tell-tale signs of freezing mean winter is not far away. It advances and retreats in fairly predictable cycles; it giveth, and it taketh away. It is the reason we, a city, are here, and it is also the reason that I, an individual, am here, doing the work I do.

Both the historic site I was working at and the one where I work currently owe their existence to the river. The river, as I told people daily when I gave tours, was the highway of its time. The fastest way from point A to point B. It was the main thoroughfare for transport and for trade, and remained so until the railroad arrived. And [new site] is situated right at the point where the two rivers meet. The heart of the city.

There is a reason that no one had built at the juncture of the Red and Assiniboine rivers before the Europeans came. It had been a gathering place for centuries, but the people of this area knew better than to try and build their house upon the sand, as the saying goes. Because the same river that could provide you with supplies and food and income could rob you of everything you owned.

[old site] is situated on the very highest bank along the river. It was built because a flood of near-biblical proportions had destroyed just about everything at [new site] in a single day.

[old site] has never flooded, which is the very reason it was built in its particular location. Until settlement was re-established at [new site], it served as the main centre of transport and administration in what is now Manitoba. It is one of the reasons [old site] is in such remarkable condition, with so many buildings looking just as they did almost 200 years ago.

The snow from this past winter had almost melted, until the other day, when a snowstorm swept down on us. The ice, which had been breaking up naturally, froze up and jammed, threatening to crush anything in its way. And the river started to swell.

The ice jam at [old site] is unlike anything they've ever seen--to the point where it's being covered by the CBC as part of their in-depth "flood watch". Emergency crews are sandbagging the area now.

I think things will work out at [old site]. I don't think their reputation as The Place The River Never Touched will be sullied. But I am wondering what is going to happen here at [new site] in the spring, when all of this ice is converted back to water, and the floodwater from the south begins to arrive. I have people and programs to look after. I've basically come straight from the highest, safest point, down to the place where it all began. And I have no idea what I am supposed to do when the river starts to lap at my heels.

I wonder what manner of general I will be when my battlefield is underwater?


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January 2010

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