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My First Flash "Flood," part II

Between the noise and the rain and the sticky goo, I was getting cabin fever. Not just a hackneyed expression, this is a real state of desperation. Oddly enough, whenever I have personally experienced this mood, I rebelled against it with the most determined optimism. This can seem odd or even a little magical to the person experiencing it, but, if we are to believe William James in The Will to Believe, it is common behavior:
It is, indeed, a remarkable fact that sufferings and hardships do not, as a rule, abate the love of life; they seem, on the contrary, usually to give it a keener zest. The sovereign source of melancholy is repletion. Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void. Not the Jews of the captivity, but those of the days of Solomon's glory are those from whom the pessimistic utterances in our Bible come. Germany, when she lay trampled beneath the hoofs of Bonaparte's troopers, produced perhaps the most optimistic and idealistic literature that the world has seen; and not till the French 'milliards' were distributed after 1871 did pessimism overrun the country in the shape in which we see it there to-day. The history of our own race is one long commentary on the cheerfulness that comes with fighting ills.

So I put on a raincoat and took the dog for a walk down to the dry wash to see if it was still dry. The "red sandstone" under my trailer was hard. But the rain made it greasy and slippery in a way that I had never experienced. As with walking on icy sidewalks, I had to bend the knees and keep my weight forward. But I still fell once while walking slowly across it. It wasn't pure sandstone, apparently. Clearly, driving away from the kiddie motorcycle rodeo was impossible until the roads started to dry up in the afternoon.

I am still mystified. How could greasy wet Mancos shale be mixed with that red sandstone and yet still look like pure red sandstone?

As we approached the dry wash I remembered the warning from a local Moab expert about not crossing over if it was raining. An SUV, without that advantage, crossed the sandy dry wash just ahead of me, and then disappeared into the Great Beyond. It seemed ordinary and oddly ominous at the same time.
Something grabbed the corner of my vision. Water was streaming down. It was only 2 inches deep -- it was not like watching the Red Sea crossing in Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments. Still, it looked so odd and unnatural to see flowing water all at once. Was this a humble example of the fabled flash floods of the Southwest? How long I had yearned to see one!

Woops, wait a minute. We were standing right in the middle of the formerly dry creek bed, and just downstream the vertical bank was 15 feet high. Warned or not, I just couldn't leave the stream bed. Surely there would be noise or something, or time to skedaddle if flash floods really were "flashes."  (I had always suspected that the term was an exaggeration.) Apparently "flash flood" is an analog term, not a digital one. This one didn't show any signs of washing man and dog down to the Colorado River.

Unable to dare this mere "sudden onset of moving water" into lethal glamor, I settled for merely observing it. The front edge moved downstream at half walking speed, because it kept filling in the low spots on the sides of the stream. As I continued to watch, the advance of water seemed systematic, relentless, and even sentient. But it is the foul mood, written about in the last post, that deserves the credit for the magic of this experience: I started seeing this moving water as a Malevolence.

Rationally It should choose the path of least resistance, but instead Its lethal fingers probed the sides of the dry river bed for victims. The fingers would close around their latest victim until they choked it, swallowed and digested it, and then moved relentlessly downstream to continue the slaughter.

Think of old-time science-fiction B movies: The Blob that Ate Philadelphia. Or Star Trek TNG episodes: a black oil slick thing that killed Sasha. And remember the "Crystalline Entity?"  

My encounter with the Alluvial Entity must be a representation of something more general.  Recall the half men/half bulls of ancient mythology, the sphinxes of the Egyptians and endless examples of that type, and the demi-gods, and the confused nature of Jesus for the first couple centuries. In more recent times there was the intriguing dual nature of light: sometimes seeming like a wave, sometimes like a particle. 

It's hard to imagine superhuman Benevolence or Malevolence unless it is made of some material that is different or superior to the humble clay of our own bodies. (Oh geesh, why did I have to say 'clay!') That is where the Alluvial Entity grabbed me mentally, if not physically. Once we begin to feel harmful or helpful powers and intelligence in this alien material, we can't resist partially anthropomorphizing it -- which is far more convincing than completely turning it human.

And to all my readers: have a happy (early) Halloween!


edlfrey said…
The 'flash' of a flash flood is determined by a lot of factors I do believe. The one and only that I have ever seen was in a narrow dry draw with banks perhaps 10 feet high. There had bee VERY heavy rain in the foothills that this draw drained and I saw a wall of water about 3 feet high come racing down the channel. Where the draw widened it became much more akin to what you saw.
XXXXX said…
What a relief! With all the talk of Jesus, The Varieties of Religious Experience, turning the other cheek, Solomon, the parting of the Red Sea and then speaking of Malevolence and the Alluvial Entity, I thought for sure we were in for a Build-your-Ark, Noah-style, flood for sure.
Can't think of the name for those very narrow canyons which truly are dangerous when a flash flood runs through them. I've hiked through a few and that is truly a scary thing to imagine.
XXXXX said…
They're slot canyons.
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from Spotted Dog Ranch we have this, after I bowdlerized the road names:
Boonie, XYZ is the old entrance to Arches. The wash used to flood so nobody could cross, so tourists would get stuck inside the park. There were several times the being stuck lasted long enough the parkies had to feed the tourists. That wash really can flash and it also has some quicksand, though not too bad. Next time you should camp on the OTHER side of it and see what kind of adventure you have. There are some dino tracks over there that the road used to go right over - they realigned it a few years ago to miss them. It's actually Morrison Fm, not Mancos, that's up higher - you see Mancos out by the airport. Morrison is the dino bone formation and can be really slick - bentonite clays (has volcanic ash in it). XYZ road comes out near Balanced Rock in the park.