Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tragedy And Hope

If Seattle is known for anything, it's for its rain, typically of the moody, misty variety, the kind of climate that spawns things like grunge rock, Twin Peaks, and coffee shops filled with solitary hipsters using the free wifi and staring out the window at all the passerby using newspapers for umbrellas. But last weekend we were hit by the Pineapple Express, a surge of torrential rain brought to us from the waters of Hawaii courtesy of El Niña.

The weather maps I've seen indicate that Woodland Park received between 3-4 inches of rain during the 48-hour period, most of it on Sunday. Some parts of the city, like the northern tip of West Seattle, were hit by as much as 6 inches, making it a once in a century event for them.

Lots of us found out for the first time that our basements leaked, but our annoyances are nothing to those who lost their homes when the rivers flooded in the areas north and east of the city. When the ground gets that saturated with water in this place where we've pretty much denuded the many hillsides of vegetation, we're prone to mudslides and it's not uncommon for houses to simply slide away. I didn't hear about it happening in this weather event, but I know that some people had trees (and even in one case, an electrical transformer) come through the walls of their homes. 

But at least the tragedy wasn't as widespread, as it could have been.

A couple months ago, we had an empty aquarium out in the garden, potting soil, and some leftover peas, carrot and radish seeds, so we created an impromptu green house as an experiment, only to realize once it was too late that we'd neglected to include any kind of drainage layer, like gravel, under the soil. We adults figured the seeds would sprout, only to have their roots "drown" or mildew in the over-saturated soil.

Kind of miraculously, however, not only did the seeds sprout, but by carefully covering it each afternoon, were able to keep the thing growing for 2 months. It was never one of our "popular attractions," but almost every day a kid or two would spend some time checking it out, perhaps adding some sticks or bark or an insect or two, or even occasionally plucking some radish leaves for a taste. We had spiders living in there for a day at a time, although I intentionally let them escape at the end of each day, worried that they'd lack sustenance closed up in there at night.

Of all weekends to forget to cover the aquarium, last weekend was the worst possible one to choose.

As you can see by the water line, that weather map was pretty accurate -- there's probably 3.5 inches in there. In a way it is beautiful.

But also tragic. In the best of times, worms live a precarious existence in a preschool garden, especially one in which 2-year-olds roam ("Teacher Tom, this one broke.") but we were unaware that any lived in our aquarium.

We've noticed that it's turned pale in death. Some of the kids have refused to believe it ever was a worm, but there it is against the glass, reminding us of what must have been a horrible death. There may be more dead worms in there, but they didn't come to the window to show us their carcasses. My stomach churns a little each time I see it, not that I really have a problem with dead worms, but because of my own culpability in its demise. None of the children have shown any emotion about it and most of the adults are simply repulsed. That said, I think we'll let it ride for the rest of the week and see what we can learn from it before our holiday break.

If you look carefully, you can also see a few non-flying insect bodies down in the weeds, but we also found a sign of hope amidst this universal tragedy.

There on the tip of a stick, the only thing that stayed above the water's surface, we found two roly polys clinging to life. On Monday, we set them free in the garden.

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Unknown said...

all I can say is... wow. : )
I love discoveries like this and hope your parents appreciate your perspective-

Amanda Helmkamp said...

Congratulations on winning the Edublog Teacher Blog!!

Morgan said...

Teacher Tom! You won! You won best teacher blog! I'm so excited! So proud that I read your blog regularly!