smelling like a war zone
Sunday, July 2 2006
I got some groceries at the Uptown Hannford and then took the dogs to the Secret Spot on the Esopus, the first time we've visited it since this year's floods. As had happened last year, access to the parking area had been eroded away and I had to park well short of it. Flood waters had receded enough for the dogs and I to walk down to the picnic spot on the bank of the "creek," but "the spot" now lay in a wide swath of destruction, with flattened vegetation, debris caught high in trees, and everywhere, orange mud. It was exciting in a post-apocalyptic way, and I immediately recognized one of the bonds that humans and dogs have shared through the millennia since those first relationships tentatively forged across paleolithic refuse piles. Both of our species are excited by the opportunities provided by radical change and disaster. I've experienced dizzying excitement when storms raged through, when blackouts fell, and even in the end-of-the-world horror of 9/11. My attitude goes something like, "Who knows what the world will be like now? It's different forever! Let's explore, let's find out about this brand new world!" The dogs are the same. Though Sally is terrified of thunder, she's eager to see what it has accomplished once it's blown through. The disaster at the Secret Spot sent her and Eleanor scattering in a frenzy of sniffling.
As I walked stepped across tangled driftwood through puddles of arbitrary depth, I was thinking like a writer and composing in my head what I'd be writing now. I remember thinking that I should say that the Secret Spot didn't just look like a war zone; it also smelled like one. I couldn't see any dead bodies, I could only smell them, tangled unseen in the debris. But then I saw Eleanor hesitantly nose-to-nose with a dead carp the size of a house cat. It was bloated and covered with what I assumed was fungus. I'm sure it could single-handedly account for all the smell of death I was detecting.
Throughout the day I continued picking away at the rot under the laundry room door and then going upstairs to my laboratory computer and gradually working out the details of my fancy new DHTML-based mySQL table maker application.
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