I live and work out of south central Texas, in a city on two rivers, not far from the Blanco and San Marcos Rivers. The San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers are my playground, as I participate in canoe races year-round held from the headwaters to the mouth, most notably, the Texas Water Safari. I teach canoe classes at Texas State University. If I ever had a “home away from home” designation to give, it would be for these rivers. I absolutely love being on the river, and those rivers specifically.
On Memorial Day weekend, those rivers raged. The Blanco River, which runs through the small town of Wimberley, then San Marcos (the fastest growing city in the nation), before it converges with the San Marcos River above Martindale, flowed at a reported 223,000 cubic feet per second. That’s 2.5 times the flow of Niagara Falls, I read in a report. As a frame of reference, “normal” flow for those rivers is 100-300 cfs on average. If you’ve seen the news reports, you’ve seen the devastation. As several folks have said, “we’ll never see the river look like it did before, in our lifetime.”
I’ve spent days volunteering primarily in Martindale, a tiny town with massive destruction. I’ve worked directly with a dozen of the homeowners affected. My heart is so heavy for Lupe, Mario, Annette, Raquel, Pete, Fernando, Clavio, Paula and Tom, and the list goes on. We gutted their homes. We threw away memories and ruined tools, clothes and food. I did not want to write about the power of nature or how we can manage things in the face of disaster. I could not bring myself to write about something so hurt-filled. While there are lessons to be learned there, I was personally not ready to write about it, while we’re still knee-deep in mud and devastation, and still, this past Saturday, additional flash flooding.
However, Sunday afternoon, I stopped in to check on my new friends in downtown Martindale. The sun was finally out after weeks of rain. Flooring was being put in Lupe and Mario’s home. Angelica, their 8 year-old, gave me a big hug. There were smiles on everyone’s faces.
I will never forget the smiles. It was a completely different world at that point. 36 hours prior, when we arrived at their home, it was hard to know where to begin. “Just throw it all out,” Lupe told my crew. “I have a few boxes to save, but that’s it.” I walked past her at one point just standing there with tears running down her cheeks. Flash forward to Sunday. Their home is drying out. Friends have arrived to help install their plywood flooring. Lupe is offering my work partner and me things to eat and drink, hugging and laughing with us. Her attitude has had a 180 degree change, and that makes all the difference.
There is so much to be thankful for. There is much to be happy for. We are alive. We have community. And the happiness we can find gives us the advantage to succeed.
If you’d like to make a donation to help the people of this flood-devastated area, please visit http://www.unitedwayhaysco.org/give