flood street tsunami aftermath

Do you live in the general locale where you grew up? Do you live far from your childhood home? Do you find yourself constantly changing residences? Have you traveled the world? Do you prefer to stay home?

The novel Creatures, by Crissy Van Meter, is about those who stay and those who leave. It’s about those who love home, despite its flaws, too much to stray; it’s about those who can’t bear to stay in one place for too long. (It’s also about lots of other things!) For good and for bad, y’know? Both staying and leaving have joys and burdens.

The protagonist and her dad choose to stay home. Home, for them, is a small island in the Pacific Ocean. There are many wonderful things about living on this island . . . though it can be, well, insular.

Another downside of living on the island: periodic natural disasters. Here’s how Van Meter describes the protagonist’s experience of a tsunami and the resultant flooding:

“We didn’t hear all the water rising around us, or the sound of glass breaking, or the pool overflowing. We didn’t hear nearby windows shatter or smell salt leaking into our living room. Dad was passed out cold, and I, dreadfully exhausted from chips and anticipation, slept . . . In the morning, among the shadows made from partial sunshine, our house was flooded and smelled like a sunken ship. We had to paddle out in inner tubes and pool noodles to get anywhere on the bottom floor. Dad said not to swallow any of it. And when we recovered, red-eyed and lost, we began to clean up the mess. A cleanup that would take the actual rest of our lives. Still, we shouted wildly at the sea and called ourselves survivors.”

I especially love the sentence “A cleanup that would take the actual rest of our lives.” Oh! It’s a sentence reminiscent not just of a physical cleanup, but a mental cleanup. It reminds me of the disasters in my own life and how they have affected me, physically and mentally, for years and years after the initial event. Maybe they will affect me for the actual rest of my life.

Natural disasters. A pandemic. Divorces. Existential crises. Injuries. Residential moves. Heartbreaks. . . . What are you still in the process of cleaning up?

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