Taking a deep breath, I gently lowered my canoe into the water, making sure to accomplish that without making a splash. Trying to keep my feet from getting wet, I rotated back and forth, gathering the items I had placed on the shore and carefully placing them into the canoe. My life jacket hung over the front thwart with my phone precariously sticking out from the pocket closest to me. My flipsflops slid under the webbed seat and my water bottle was within easy reach behind me. My dry bag filled with snacks and a towel were stuffed perfectly underneath the rear thwart, horizontally in hopes that it wouldn’t throw the canoe off balance. With everything perfectly placed in its spot, I took a deep breath and began to rebuild my relationship with water.
Because the water was gross. Instead of the beautiful clear water that we have become so accustomed to in Vermont, this water was a thick light brown … resembling the color of poo. In fact, it might even have actual poo in it. The summer camps on the lake has forbidden the campers to go anywhere near the water, instead waiting for results of the e coli studies to be received from the state. I had to believe it was just a whole lot of mud coming down from Shrewsbury peak.
In Vermont right now, it feels as though water must be our enemy. To have so many hopes and dreams destroyed or damaged in only a few hours has been traumatizing, to say the very least. All I see now is the damage caused by water, the mounds and mounds of personal belongings sitting outside destroyed by water and the mold that comes with it. You cannot drive anywhere in Vermont without seeing bright orange traffic cones, marking damage to the very roads that connect us.
But, simply put, we cannot exist without water. We exist only at the pleasure of water. My grandfather always said that you can fight fire, but you cannot fight water. You must learn to live with it, to match the cycle of your life to the cycle of water. It is the driving force of all nature and we must flow with it as it flows through our bodies. Water is life, water is love, blah blah blah.
These quotes are deceiving. Water is dangerous, it can attack at any time and because life is made for water it is water that controls us. We are dependent upon water and all its whims. If it wants to destroy entire towns, it can do so without any warning or inclination of its path. It brings life, but it also brings death and destruction. Water is two sides of the same coin.
So maybe all this destruction is just the beginning. A way of teaching us how to start a new, to start fresh and create something great from its rebirth. Not because we wanted to, but because Nature has decided the time has come. Communities are coming together and growing stronger because of the floods. Neighbors are strengthening their bonds as they work to rebuild their homes and businesses. We are growing stronger than we ever were before.
And so I am rebuilding my relationship with water.
Last Thursday, when the storm threatened tornadoes and all kinds of other damage, I couldn’t take it anymore and put myself into a stupor just so that I could fall asleep and make it all go away. Every raindrop on my metal roof caused my heart to beat faster in my chest. I have become a conpulsive culvert checker, I cannot drive home without peeking into each and every culvert to make sure they are free from debris.
So I am here, on this gross looking water, trying to rebuild my long-term friendship with water. I’m certainly not swimming in it and will be taking a hot shower immediately upon returning home, but I am here. Here to let the water know that it cannot now, nor will it ever, defeat us. That every time it seeks to destroy us, we will rebuild and come out stronger for it.
And so we have begun to rebuild. Together. A shared experience is a powerful thing. It unites us, it strengthens us and it can also heal us. Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about the commitment our founding fathers made at the end of the Declaration of Independence: we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. Nowhere is this more visible than Vermonters uniting together to free ourselves from the destruction of the Flood of 2023. We are, and always will be, Vermont Strong.
Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident, bartender, KMS coach and local Realtor. She can be reached at