Friday, May 20, 2011

Do not move the ancient boundaries

My father's office building sits on the edge of the Ohio river in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The Ohio is near its widest here, stretching a mile between Kentucky and Indiana, flowing with more volume than the mighty Mississippi at their confluence. From the rear of his office, one has a panoramic view of the river and it's many sites: the canal & locks, the Colgate clock, the falls. It is a mysterious and majestic section, giving credence to the name "Ohio", which comes from the Iriquoian "oyo" meaning "beautiful." Thomas Jefferson agreed with their assessment and wrote "The Ohio is the most beautiful river on earth. Its current gentle, waters clear, and bosom smooth and unbroken by rocks and rapids, a single instance only excepted."

But with the beauty comes the risk of feeling its power all too intimately. My father has a front row window to the battle of the bulging river in these flooding days. He recently sent me this picture of the river's elevated stage:

On the left (out of the picture) is the Muhammed Ali Museum. if  you look carefully in the middle of the picture, you can just see the TOP of a STOP sign. And the water was still rising.

My brother commented the following on this picture: "Even though it's dangerous, it's still really beautiful to see the river temporarily claim territory that's up for grabs."

That has always been true. The power of the river is amazingly seductive, and has always drawn me in with its mystery and strength. The memory of living close to this river inspired the following poem:

The mighty Ohio re-stakes its claim
Pouring over the plains
that man has mistakenly assumed
were always his domain
and now wait
for the mud laced parks to drain

While the Ohio flows on
And will not let us forget
There are boundaries in life that must be respected.
Though the water creeps back down
The slopes that direct it

Memories fade and are lost with time.
But tragedy comes again to those
That disregard the message sent long ago.
Living near a river like this serves as a regular reminder that there are real boundaries in life that must be respected. Want to build your house on the bank of the Ohio? go ahead. It is really beautiful. It also tends to flood, in a big, big way. Yeah, I know it is easy to forget about the flooding, even though it happens almost every year. And every decade or so it gets real messy. And every century or so it comes into the heart of the city.

Why is it that we so quickly forget the power that lies behind the river? Something within us tends to assume that the worst is not really possible, even though we own insurance of all types. Proverbs 22:28 says, "Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set." Do not discard the wisdom of those that have gone before you. There is much to learn from the ancients.

There is a reason that all over the coast of Japan there are stone markers, placed hundreds of years before, that read "Do not build below this line." (read the article about them here). No one knows who placed these markers. Who were these ancient people? They were a people that loved their land and cared for the future generations. Yet many ignored the warnings, building below the line, where the water destroyed mercilessly.

We bought flood insurance this year for the first time. The former home owner was very assuring that the little creek trickling along the back edge of the property had never risen to the fence line, not in the entire forty year history of the home. Forty years is a long time for a man, yet a short history for a creek. Let us pray that those forty are a good representation of the last 4,000.

1 comment:

John and Pam Majors said...

I really like this poem! Great work!! Mom