This morning I visit the Skeena River in full flood. Its torrent of water heedless of all obstructions engulf the base of cottonwoods, whole trees uproot and whip down the channel in a highway of debris, whirlpools are wild and astonishing, walking trails sucked away. The very air quivers with Skeena’s strength.
It does not seem very faraway when Terrace was declared a state of emergency in 2007. That year the river entered our home.
Terrace Flood 2007
The community of Terrace is largely isolated from the rest of the province… A mudslide and flooding have closed a highway and left the CN main line under water.
Rivers’ underground life expands,
the earths swollen cavities form veins and capillaries
fan their way beneath our home
three blocks from the main flow.
Water rises through the concrete floor,
jack hammer releases a geyser of spray
cold and clean as deep springs,
drone of the pump a tireless grumble.
I had a sanctuary along the riverbank,
nook of trees in cool relief,
feel water wrap around
like soft breath upon my face
whisper secrets of her large body
River canyons compressed waters
open streams shift in complete surrender
my refuge gouged out with spring swell
In its place a steep slice of bank.
The Skeena River is above flood stage. The discharge is the second largest recording measured in seventy-seven years. Substantial snow remains in the Skeena Basin.
The basement transforms into an underground cave,
frigid tendrils settle in walls and furnishings.
early morning mist saturates the upper rooms.
I huddle in blankets, drink green tea
remember my childhood home.
Stucco walls chipped around the bottom
like scabs continually picked away.
Wire mesh, a brittle skeletal shell exposes
fist sized holes that lead to a crawl space.
My mother alone with four small children
worn thin with this house
Water levels are dropping or at least not rising so fast. Cooler than seasonal weather has put the brakes on snow melt. B.C. Environment Forecast Center, 2007
A thin skin of water envelopes the cement floor
trickles into sides of the hole, pump slows.
Silence fills the space with an eerie vacuum.
Months later I dream of Skeena,
a pool forms outside my door,
I dive in fully clothed,
swim out to the open river.
A shadowy presence moves alongside
swift and sure.
I am not alone
The river no longer quiet
waits just below my floor.