Yesterday was stormy with heavy rainfall, and rivers around the Dales burst their banks.
Several roads became rivers, fields are still full of standing water.
I live in an old mill by a river where a weir once diverted water through the mill to power the wheel. The weir is long gone but when the water table rises, it's inevitable that our house floods. We don't really mind about this. We knew when we bought it - it's such a beautiful building in a fantastic location we decided that the odd flood was worth all the other days of beauty, and we couldn't have afforded it if it was always flood-free. The benefit (yes really!) of the potential to flood is that we've become much more aware and appreciative of the daily changes in the river. There are plants and patches of ground on the river bank that I look at daily in a 'now you see them, now you don't' memory game.
As the river rises and it becomes more obvious we're likely to flood there's usually another positive: people. I don't like waiting for the flood but am always touched by the kindness of friends and strangers. Last night some friends offered to come and help move things, others offered to bring down food. The first year we were here a stranger showed up on the doorstep with a casserole. Yesterday our lovely chair of the local Parish Council made sure we'd heard the flood warning and were fine. A restaurant owner sent a message to see if we needed help despite only been hours from a busy Saturday evening service.
The staff at the Environment Agency are fantastic at predicting when the flood waters are likely to peak and at what level so we can plan how much stuff to move. They're like a secret hidden super force - quietly working away year round and then suddenly called upon for their expertise and calm advice when everyone suddenly becomes aware of their existence. They've visited our house and stretch of the river several times, examining which bits flood, whether the water course is changing, considering if anything can be done higher upstream, working out how to improve their flood warning system.
Last night as we were going to bed I heard a loud knocking at the door: two female PCSOs had paddled down the flooded track to check we were OK.
I can cope with my own home flooding, but have to turn away from pictures of cattle in fields bewildered by the rising water. My heart goes out to the farmers whose daily routine is already full of toil, and yet have to find still more energy to battle nature and find safe spaces for ewes about to lamb. Young lambs can cope with cold better than rain so farmers struggle more when lambing coincides with wet weather. This is the harsh side of nature.
When the rivers rise, the waterfalls become incredible and facebook is flooded (sorry) with pictures of them, everyone marvelling at their energy. I'm mesmerised by the power of nature, not just to destroy, but particularly to recover.
The more positive side comes the day after the flood. Over the last fourteen years I've noticed it's almost always a bright sunny day. I'm very unmusical yet after a flood there's always lots of music in my head. It starts as I get up, with a strong sense of a new and better day dawning. Looking outside, it feels like Grieg's Morning was written specially for these moments. The clean up operation beckons but first I wander outside, marvelling at the resilience of nature, accompanied by 'I can see clearly now the rain is gone'. Yesterday the daffodils by the river disappeared under the murky water. Today their yellow heads are swaying optimistically to 'here comes the sun'.
I always think of Noah, liberating the animals after the flood. As we go outside our spaniels race to discover the new smells, glance at the river which has formed a moat around the garden and dash around in search of anything the flood waters have left behind. Sticks litter the garden, along with bizarre other things carried down by the force of the river. When the river goes back to its usual low level, I'll go mud larking with an artist friend. Last time we found lovely pieces of glass that she turned into beautiful pieces of art, a reminder of a special day. The bird song always seems extra loud after a flood, even more uplifting than usual.
As I watch the river return to its usual peaceful flow, there's a feeling of redemption. It's reassuring to see that no matter how fierce nature is, there's also a natural order. Sooner or later peace is restored, we're back to normal and back to enjoying this wonderful spot by the river. We just have to have faith in nature and its ability to find its course again - it's pointless to resist but best to literally go with the flow...