Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Our Ark

Laura has taken to calling our new room “The Ark.” This sounds a lot better than “flood refuge room,” doesn’t it?

It took me a full two years to hatch this plan.

After the flood of August 2006, all options were on the table: moving out of the area, moving into Las Cruces, buying land in the north valley, putting a trailer on our beeyard land, tearing the house down and starting over, buying a houseboat and mooring it in the pasture, on and on. The options were either distasteful, impractical, or ridiculously expensive. I was in a quandary: the solution kept eluding me.

Immediately after the flood, the Highway Department built a very nice berm between our honey house and the highway, which should protect the honey house from future flooding. Protecting our house from the river, on the other hand, is virtually impossible. Theoretically, I could cut down all the saltcedars along the river and haul in countless truckloads of dirt to build a levee, but this would cost me tens of thousands of dollars, and would still not guarantee protection.

After the flood, I had to get used to the idea that our house will always be vulnerable to flooding from the river. This has required a lot of processing on my part. Fortunately, the summer of 2007 was very dry – we got only 4.32 inches of rain during the entire monsoon season – so I could continue with flood cleanup while pondering our flood vulnerability problem.

Our grace period ended with the very wet 2008 monsoon. During this time, we had many opportunities to experience our reaction to heavy thunderstorms, while living in a house totally at the mercy of whatever the weather throws our way. Our quandary reached a climax at 4 a.m. one morning in August. Laura and I were awakened from our slumber by loud thunder and heavy rain, and our fear reached an unacceptable level. We knew then that we couldn’t spend the rest of our lives living this way. Something had to be done.

The solution finally came to me in September: I needed to build a flood-proof room on stilts, Cajun-style. The obvious place to build it, I realized, was between the house and river. This is the lowest part of our land, but is flat and easy to build on. The beauty of this plan is, the new room could be part of our day-to-day living arrangement. Put the bed and our best furniture into the new room; Laura has already colonized our living room as her art studio. If the main part of the house ever gets flooded again, at least we can live in The Ark while mucking out the house. (Part of the problem with living in Las Cruces after the flood was having to spend an hour each day commuting back and forth when we were perpetually exhausted from doing flood cleanup, as well as harvesting and processing our largest wildflower honey crop ever.)

The Ark will be wood frame, 16x24 feet, on a sturdy platform 8 feet off the ground. There will be lots of windows, and a porch overlooking the river. This should give us a core habitable area, safe from any foreseeable flood. Of course, eventually Elephant Butte Dam will fail, and Selden Canyon (where we live) will be scoured down to bedrock, but that’s for future generations to think about.


Blogger Jacques Conejo said...

Sounds great.... Another testament to dogged determination to make that piece of land work. Tough, persistent, pioneer stock at work out there on the river bank.

I admire the intelligence, the problem solving skills, the relentless coordination of elements and ideas, that combine with the catalyst of stubborn determination, and continue to produce workable results.

By the way, while always implicit, let it be made explicit, that my hat's off to Laura too. I've seen her in action, weathering those storms, steadfast with you. And despite her own doubts, fears, uncertainties, remaining solid and focused on doing what must be done. It's apparent that Laura is a great gift as an exceptionally strong, accomplished and committed partner, through the many challenges of your chosen lifestyle. A lifestyle that along with many rare joys and blessings, also brings uncommonly difficult obstacles to contend with.

I don't know all your inter-personal stories, but I suppose it's safe to imagine that there may have been one or perhaps two conflicts over the past 20 plus years. (Ah, the special opportunity for personal growth that only partnerships can provide.)

Nonetheless, it appears to me that you are each greatly blessed to benefit from the many unique qualities, strengths and contributions that you bring, individually and collectively, to the challenges you face. You're a remarkable and powerful team, and an inspiration to anyone who's paying attention.

Your son Neil, by genetics and osmosis, seems surely steeped in the same dynamic skills of reason, patient manifestation, comprehension, collaboration and commitment that in combination, you and Laura as teachers, parents and partners have demonstrated.

These gifts, skills and qualities will be much favored in coming times.

So "THE ARK" reaches skyward, grounded firmly in it's foundation of planning, commitment and concrete. Conceived, and formed as a collective contribution, and yes, yet another monument honoring your rare "dechaosificational" capacity.

My hat's off to you, the members of The Amazing Soarbird Clan.

Life unfolds. Thanks for your contributions.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Gordon Solberg said...

Yes, Laura is a real trouper. I couldn't be doing this without her!

6:48 AM  

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