Monday, May 16, 2005

The Rose Bush and the Floods

The title sounds as if it’s a fable – or a fantasy. But it’s not – just a small notation of endurance – of plants, of people, of spirit.

Years ago I had the opportunity to help clean up and plant flowers at a park’s garden along the Delaware River in Easton, PA. The garden would be dedicated to cancer survivors – specifically breast cancer survivors. I chose a rose bush to plant. I planted it in memory of my mother who survived, for a short time at least, lymphoma and Linda McCartney, who valiantly, but unsuccessfully, battled breast cancer. It was also for my sister and me – Pattie had thyroid cancer once – I had it twice.

A few months after I planted the bush I learned that my Aunt Carmen had gone through a mastectomy. It seems as if “the big C” was all around me – all around us.

I would drive by the garden several times a year to see “my” rose bush and admire the other lovely plants. My daughter once lived near the park and she would go there just to sit and watch the Delaware.

The Delaware is the one of the reasons Easton was born almost 300 hundred years ago – a river way and later a canal way – to Philadelphia. In it’s early history the town had ferries that crossed both the Delaware to New Jersey and the Lehigh River that empties into the larger river. The area where the two merge is called the Forks of the Delaware – a beautiful sight.

That is, unless it’s flooding, and then it becomes destructive – and awesome.

I watched the river rise slowly in downtown Easton once within the last year – a flooding brought on by massive rains. Heather had not yet moved to Seattle and we stood on Front Street, two blocks from her apartment and right across from the little park and the Survivor Garden. We had to keep backing up a few inches each minute to keep our feet dry. We finally gave up – and we both went to our respective homes – Heather to worry about the rising waters and me, living miles away, to worry about Heather.

All was well after that flood – Easton had issues but FEMA would be there with grants and low-interest loans. All the businesses ruined vowed a comeback. The small park was still intact and so was the garden. Heather’s street remained dry and she eventually moved to Seattle – with it’s own rain problems.

But then the floods came again in April and this time it was much worse – much worse. There was more destruction and, without the promised FEMA money arriving from the first flood, devastating to the town. The Survivor Garden was decimated – it would have to be cleaned up and replanted.

A friend recently emailed me that my rose bush must have fallen this time to the flood waters. And then another email came – the rose bush was still there – roots dug into the earth deep enough to withstand raging waters.

Easton may have to go under state management – several lost lawsuits and two major floods in one year have damaged their finances. But the city is rebounding – like the rose bush – like the garden – like the people who survive “the big C” – even if it’s for a short time, like Mom and Linda McCartney. Surviving means getting through the tough times – digging your roots in deep and holding on against raging waters.


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