plants weather Helianthus frost

In Hidden Valley – A Remembrance Poem

2012-Sunflower 3In Hidden Valley the sunflowers grew
Between the poplars, fresh with dew.
They marked our divots; and in the sky
The crows, still cawing as they fly,
Break the calm that lies below.

We are the scattered. Short days ago
We laughed, played late, watched bonfires glow.
Then the river rose and now our homes lie
Silent in Hidden Valley.

__________________

Dedicated to the 305 Hidden Valley families who lost their homes in the flood of 2013. For further information about this disaster, go to the website Hidden Valley, Alberta.

Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by the Canadian WWI soldier, John McCrae

Related Read  WWI Memorial – A Brooding Soldier,  In Flanders Fields 

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golf cart tipped over

Golf Carts and Corn Stalks – After Flood Perspectives

Our eyes are side by side – we just naturally look at life in a horizontal perspective!

2013-Golf cart sunflower1

In the aftermath of the Flood at Hidden Valley, Alberta, a few things that were once vertically aligned are now in a horizontal position. This golf cart near the 4th green has become a little greenhouse for what looks like a sunflower plant!

2013-Golf cart sunflower2

I turned the camera and took a vertical shot of the 4th fairway. It is now a lush forest of new poplar saplings and – a few more sunflower plants.

2013-Corn2

I continued walking along the 4th, past the Half Way house, then to the 6th green and bunkers. In addition to much more beach area, I found a corn plant.

2013-Corn1

This vertical photo shows the lush green growth of the grass – and a few more of the many corn plants in that area!

The Car Guy and I think that bird feed must have been scattered by the flood waters. The wet, nutrient rich silt encouraged the seeds to germinate and grow very quickly.  If these plants manage to set seed, then Hidden Valley could become a non-typical source of food for the birds for many years to come.

There are many other plants blooming in the Valley right now – I’ll post some photos in a few days.

All of our homes may have been destroyed, but the plant life is thriving. In a few years, it will be hard to tell that our Community was ever there.

Link to this week’s Photo Challenge: WordPress Photo Challenge

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mailbox mud flood

Messages – Muddy and Otherwise

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.
– Carl Sandburg –

A slippery, gooey, contaminated mud coated just everything in Hidden Valley. When it dried, it formed sheets that cracked as they hardened. Such was the case at Kevin’s house, where his mailbox announced

2013-Kevin mailbox

You’ve got mail – a Letter from your Mudder!

_______________

Hidden Valley was a unique little place – a community on a First Nation’s reserve but with mostly non-First Nation residents.  Many partnerships and friendships were formed between the two entities, and these should have been enough to ensure a new lease. It wasn’t. The “No to a Lease” group continued to grouse about our existence, even after we had been obliterated.

Lately though, some members of Siksika Nation have voiced their disapproval of the people who “bash” us. It takes courage to speak the way they have and we thank them for saying the things we will not say ourselves.

_____________

An entire sand bar was deposited on our Hidden Valley lot.  In some places it must be several feet deep. Inside the house – not so lucky. Mud and mold just like everyone else.

This coming week-end, the Car Guy and the Son-in-Law will attempt to rescue the lawnmower, one (or both) metal garden sheds, and perhaps the golf carts. We don’t really need the lawnmower or the golf carts. If we did, these items would have lived at the Red House, not at the cabin. But, they have engines, and in the Car Guy’s world, no engine should die without at least one resuscitation attempt.

_______________

I golfed with my girlfriends yesterday at the “One Tough Nine”. We were a threesome of Women of a Certain Age, but became a foursome when the Course Marshall (a man with a very odd sense of humour) attached a Much Younger Male golfer to our group. Midway through the game, MYM spotted the Hidden Valley tag on my golf bag. “Hidden Valley,” he said sadly. “See, I have the same tag as you.”

The Hidden Valley Golf Course may be disappearing under a forest of baby poplars, but golfing memories will continue to be told thanks to connections we make with our bag tags!

________________

Antelope Street Photographers – I’ve been putting this label on my photos ever since I started this blog. I chose the name because Antelope Street is where our cabin is/was. Most of the photos in this blog are mine, but a few are by family members, friends, and lately – other Hidden Valley residents who have let me use their work. Thanks go today to Kevin for the photo of his mailbox!

Related Read Alberta Flooding

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scowling

Note to the Human Vultures

It seems to me the vultures have stopped circling.
– Geoffrey Becker –

Toonaday vultureHidden Valley has been a beehive of activity since the go ahead to enter the flood zone was given by Health Canada and The Siksika Nation. The predominantly senior population have donned safety equipment and entered their properties. For most of them, the recovery of a few precious items is the most they can hope for. A few others are trying to salvage pieces of their home so that they can rebuild elsewhere.

The sole road into the area is manned by security guards. This isn’t new. Hidden Valley might appear to be rather remote and isolated, but there have always been Human Vultures who knew how to bypass security. For the most part, they were more an annoyance than anything, but last March, the species know as Vandalis vulturus  caused extensive damage to 25 homes. A few of the homeowners had not yet moved back in before the flood hit.

Other vultures have been circling over our flood disaster zone for several weeks now – watching, waiting, and finally swooping in to pick up unguarded items. These vultures belong to the species Thiefus cowardesis vulturus and they seem to prefer to gobble up satellite dishes, though a set of golf clubs and a lawnmower have also apparently been on the menu.

The Provincus governmentus vulturus belong to the group of birds that are particularly good at preening. They act much like a mosquito except they suck tax dollars. There are, however, a few eagles who live with this group and though they are very hard to find, Hidden Valley is diligently hunting them in hopes that they will come to the rescue of those who are most in need.

Also disturbing are the members of the Insurancis vulturus, a species that sucks yearly insurance premiums instead of blood. So far, their cry can be heard right across our community – “Denied, denied, denied!”

Yet to descend, (or perhaps they have already and we’ve been fleeced without knowing it), are the Federalis vulturus. Six days after we were allowed to enter our properties, Health Canada (a federal department) finally released a letter advising us to ‘stay away from our properties until appropriate measures are put into place‘ to ensure our safety. Of course, they probably already knew we had entered, so they followed up with a few cautionary notes so that they could say that they had warned us.

The Car Guy and I made a preliminary trip to our cabin to assess the damage and one subsequent trip to bring home a few more little things. We found our two golf carts and The Car Guy has talked to a cart repair shop about availability of parts should we decide to haul the carts home, repair them, and sell them. Hopefully there is not a  Cartstealis vulturus operating at Hidden Valley!

Related Read Alberta Flooding

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Alberta flood damage 2013

Hidden Valley – Re-entry

There’s no such thing as a 100-year flood.
– Andrew Cuomo –

2011-Cabin

Our Cabin before the flood – of 2013 …  after being rebuilt by the previous owners after the floods of 1995 and 2005.

2013-Yard front

Our place after the flood. The cabin was lifted by the water,  rotated almost 90 degrees, and then set back down in a different location.

2013-Cabin front

The front of the cabin – the sunroom was torn off, leaving only its roof.

2013-Deck cabin back

The back of the cabin came to rest against one of the outbuildings in the neighbour’s yard. The blue bench in the foreground of this photo was part of the deck that was attached to the back of our cabin. This deck is now on the far side of the neighbour’s yard. There is a row of flat rocks on the top rail of this blue bench – I put the rocks there, and they did not move though the deck floated more than 60 feet and turned a full 180 degrees. (We’ll rescue the rocks!)

2013-Deck bikes

The same deck as above, other side of it – four bicycles, two fell off the bench, but all of them stayed fairly high and dry. In the background, the hot tub – it started off next to this deck, but on the opposite corner.

2013-Deck floor

The upended shed – this boot and the tin of pop were in the shed – which was padlocked. The shed door is open now, but we don’t know what is in it because it is too high off the ground to see inside.

2013-Wood stool

The Car Guy and his dad made these little tables. There were ten of them, and we found five of them in our yard!

2013-Cabin inside

The inside of the cabin – kitchen to the left, living room to the right. The only thing we salvaged was the big ceramic bowl on the floor in the foreground of this photo.  It had a bit of mud on the bottom edge, but was absolutely clean otherwise.

Black colored mold is forming on many surfaces. The loft room upstairs is dry, but I don’t think we’ll salvage more than a few things from there. The mold is starting to creep up into areas that are not water damaged. Everything upstairs is exactly as I left it – even the piles of books on the dresser didn’t move.

2013-Putting green

The little putting green by the clubhouse – a small forest of trees are already starting to claim the land – and it has only been three and a half weeks since the flood!

It felt very strange to be so sad about my cabin, yet so cheered that the little piece of land that my cabin sat on was still a beautiful wooded paradise. At the front of the lot, the bulldozer had roughly scraped away a driveway, but at the back, the saskatoons were heavy with fruit. The familiar old trees that were growing nearly parallel to the ground – they had been chopped down. But the tall old poplars that threatened to fall on the cabin – they were still standing. The birds were singing, and all my neighbours were in their yards and houses, right where they would have been if this had been a normal day. It was so oddly reassuring.

On the drive home I said to The Car Guy – just suppose someone waved a magic wand and said – here is a new lease, we have a new utility system – please come back. I started to picture where I would put a house this time. I thought about how we would build a cabin that would float like a houseboat. People who don’t know better would say, “Why would you build on this flood plain again!” And I would smile and say, “You don’t understand what it means to ‘love a piece of land’. You don’t understand what ties a group of people to a place. ” Instead of moving off the flood plain, maybe a better solution is to figure out what is the best way to live on a flood plain.

The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.
– Sarah Ban Breathnach –

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Empty lot where a home was

Hidden Valley – A Community Lost

The Siksika Nation chose not to renew the Lease for Hidden Valley. Insurance companies will likely refuse to compensate cabin owners for loss from the  overland flooding of the Mighty Bow River in Alberta. Provincial and Federal Governments might choose to provide Disaster Assistance to some who lost their primary residence. The result: the majority of people at Hidden Valley will have to walk away with nothing to show for years and years of pioneer like effort. With the stroke of a pen, the people in power will finish the destruction of a Community. None of them will think to ask what was, in years gone by, perhaps the most important question, “What is the value of a community?”

Unlike some of the people at Hidden Valley, my cabin is not my primary home. But like so many other people out there, Hidden Valley is the only community I really belong to. Yes, my principal residence is in a rural area that is high and dry (except for the hail and now – more rain), but I only know a handful of my neighbours and though we watch out for one another, we don’t socialize much. We just all happen to live in the same general area.

Hidden Valley was my Community. It was the place where I could chat with my neighbours over the tops of the dogwood and rose bush ‘fence’; meet for supper at the only restaurant for miles; discuss the state of the world with passers by while watching the river flow. It was where our family all gathered, where I watched my grandchildren pass from childhood to pre-teen. It was a little lending library that kept growing;  hunting for lost golf balls in the dim light of late dusk. It was lying on the grass watching satellites and observing stars in the black of the night. It was little bush bunnies on the lawn and watching for snakes and rare frogs in the back water. Bonfires and s’mores and games of golf where you counted how many balls you lost in the river rather than how many strokes you took. (Okay, maybe I’m the only one that kept score that way…) It was where many of us chose to be after a lifetime of working and saving.

2013-Lost Cabin

The first ‘on the ground’ photos of our community are now being posted thanks to the opportunity yesterday to see the destruction from inside the safety of a bus. (Many thanks to the Siksika Nation for making this possible.) Although I wasn’t able to be there, I’d like to thank Chelsey for letting me post her photo.

Some of the houses, like the one that once graced this lot, are gone. All that is left is the litter – and the headboard of a bed stuck in the mud. Think about that. That was someone’s bed. That bed was once in someone’s house. That house was once in a Community – a community that is now gone. We didn’t even get to say good-bye…

Just over a year ago, I posted this video about my province – Alberta. I watched it again today, and it lifted my spirits while breaking my heart. My Alberta, but with Our Community gone.

 

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Alberta golf cart parade Canada Day

Responding to Stress

I read a study the other day that looked at post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in flood victims. The study observed the long term effects on residents of a flood in Poland in 1997. I was struck by the similarities between that flood and the floods here in Alberta – a sudden and huge water level rise; lack of adequate alert time; little or no time to deploy preventive measures; the permanence of disruptions and the lack of social and psychological support. Little or no financial compensation from any source was also a factor, and I expect that may be a reality for many of the residents of Hidden Valley too.

Now, I’m not going to make light of this, because I think it is important for each and every one of us to think about why we might be feeling the way we are today, and understand why we might still be feeling ‘off’ years from now if we don’t actively seek solutions.

We didn’t just lose our cabins or homes – we lost our community and all the things that meant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the majority of flood victims in Alberta will eventually return to their communities. The residents of Hidden Valley will not.

I’m only mentioning all this because The Car Guy and I have been on this roller coaster ride of loss and adjustment for almost a year now. The loss of his Harley in the accident was the least of the issues we are still trying to come to terms with. The loss of the cabin, with no option to move it, or rescue much in the way of contents, is not a welcome diversion. But in relative terms, we are far more fortunate than a high percentage of the other people in Hidden Valley. I know that, and I send my best to all who have lost far more than I have.

People respond to situations like this in different ways. Some, like me, seek ways to laugh because eventually crying isn’t as helpful. Hidden Valley people are starting to replace their confusion and frustration with humour. One of the Hidden Valley residents posted this on Facebook: “I can’t remember how to hang out in my community. Is it wrong to walk around with a beer?”

I’m sure many others are finding ways to express what they are feeling in a way that makes others smile. If you hear of any, please let me know in the comments below!

Today would have been our Canada Day Parade at  Hidden Valley. Here are a few pictures of parades from previous years:

2009-Cart Parade

2010-Cart Parade

2011-Cart Parade

Happy Canada Day Week-end to one and all from my Hidden Valley Cabin on Lots 319/320. Have a great holiday, wherever you are all!

_________________

NOTE: This story was written on July 1, 2013.  Former Hidden Valley owners who want up to date information about the ongoing concerns of the residents can go to the website Hidden Valley, Alberta.

Related Read 144 Years Old and Going Strong!

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