As some of you know, my home town is under flood as I write this. A major flood with a level that is predicted to continue rising. Expected to exceed the previous highest flood on record; February 1999 (21.94m). I’ve been awake since around 5 am reading the overnight updates of the water entering the CBD.
It made me think of the quiet, unstoppable force that floodwater is. Maybe you’re surprised by my choice of words there. We see pictures of raging rivers and swirling currents on the news. Debris washed downstream, collecting size as it goes, which is, of course, all part of it—the swift, loud version of things.
But that’s not what haunts my memories. The part that stays with me is the quiet lapping of the water, above all else. The slow, steady climb of the water level as it comes through the front door while you’re watching the back. Without sound, it slips through the gaps and fills the space. Waking in the morning to find a foot of water through your home. Grateful, it’s not more.
As a kid, I was on a back delivery dock of a Mary Street business as the floodwaters made their way across the park and lapped at the platform where I stood. Then, deciding it was time to return to my family, I left through the store and entered the street. I hadn’t thought of it; the water came from the river behind us. But at the exact moment, the calls rang out that the water had entered the shop, water spilled from the stormwater drains into the street. I stood in awe for a moment of the terrifying nature of being engulfed.
Rising water doesn’t differentiate, and it knows only to inch forward. Silently it swallows your home, your business, the street, the town and then the region. I can never get over how unrelenting and quiet it is at the edges. Where it slowly tangles you at the ankles and moves up, immobilising you; your fate is inevitable.
It was entertainment in the Mary Valley town where I grew up to head home from school early because the water would cut the small crossings to our homes. That’s being a child, I suppose. It’s all days off school and muddy puddles. And if you lived out of town, they would call you extra early and bus you out of there. I remember the mood on those buses, always high spirited and loud. Just a bunch of farm kids heading home to play in the rain and mud. An early mark from school that we all knew could last for days.
But sometimes we stayed in town. More of a village, really. A place called Kandanga where my parents owned the general store. It was the last place for many to get supplies at a time like this—the same situation at my Aunt and Uncle’s butcher shop down the street and across the road. So my cousins and I would find ourselves let loose in town, watching as the water moved up the hill from the river, taking the bowling club, the pool, park and oval. The homes of those on either side of the river, empty now, wide open.
Walking the railway tracks to a warm, dry bed that night, we can see very little outside of the torchlight that guides us. But that was probably for the best; one foot in front of the other, watching every step. Above it all, that’s where the noise is. The rush and tumble of the water, the force behind its depth. It’s all there below you, and it roars. As loud as the creeping edges are quiet, the most different of siblings, cut from the same cloth of destruction.
The destruction comes with all that a broad, strong river gives a town like mine. The grass grows to feed livestock and the pumped water for agriculture. So vast and green and impressive; this was the price we paid for the times the river rose too large.
As we grew older and moved into Gympie itself, we saw the first major floods from the CBD. The way our community comes together to support the businesses that have to pack and move, exhausted by the stress of it, usually drenched by the rain. There are friends there you’ve never met, who show up as you need them, then disappear back into the crowd.
That’s why after the water recedes, a town like mine stands back up again. The people and their determination to focus on all the great things here. Things will return to their rhythm as the mud is washed away, the homes are restored, and the shops get put back. This town finds a way to come back. I guess we are stubborn like that.
Hi! I’m Melissa Walker Horn. Around here, they call me Suger. I’m the Chief Blogger and doer of all the things here at Suger Coat It. Blogging since 1901; I love a casual ootd, taking photos, and writing about things that irk or inspire me. I love wine and cheese, long days at the beach and spending time with my family. I make stuff for the internet over at Chalkboard Digital. You know, living the sweet life.
Thinking of everyone in Gympie today and fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and repair.
Thanks, Danielle. Things are underway now, so fingers crossed things go well for them and the town is back on their feet in no time. x
Beautifully written Suger. The torrents and islands of the Mary Valley seem far more predictable and secure than the insidious creep of still water rising where it shouldn’t. Big hugs to all.
Thank you, Alison, I appreciate that. It’s a thing to witness, that’s for sure. I never minded growing up on my Mary Valley island, that’s for sure. x
Well written, it’s the repair and recovery that makes a community. The Mary River looks to be so high this time.
Thank you, Jane. It is, and we are reminded of that at times like this, for sure. And it was, it turned out to be the largest flood in living history and the second-highest on record at 22.94m.