Boise Over its Banks

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March 11, 2017

We head out from home on foot to survey flooding that, like our winter snow, is the highest in many years.

High water
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High water
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The Boise River pushes cold, swirling water over its banks every few years, like a person who’s held things inside too long, suddenly overcome. “The highest since 1997” the TV says but I think riverbank renovations have ameliorated high flows in recent decades. I remember them being more calamitous.

Unicorn on wheels
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Unicorn on wheels
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“Can you get the blue one down?” Brenna asked yesterday as I was getting our bikes out of the garage, pushing aside carpet roles and cabinets remaining from autumn remodeling. The “blue one” is Laura’s old bike, a size up from what Brenna has ridden so far. It has hung in the garage, unmoved for several years, a symbol of past and future.

Flood walk 2006
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Flood walk 2006
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The river is only a few blocks from our house so if it’s doing something interesting, we’ll certainly walk over for a look. Two-thousand-six was the first time Kayla and Hunter saw it overflow. We rode our bikes through the water.

Flood walk 2011
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Flood walk 2011
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It was a few years before we saw flooding again, the first time for Brenna. Hunter was kind to keep her feet from the cold.

Flood walk 2012
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Flood walk 2012
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The next year saw a little flooding but nothing to impede a princess.

Watching you watching me
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Watching you watching me
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More years have passed. Laura and Kayla are grown and moved out and Hunter is in the throes of teen apathy, leaving this survey to Jess and I, our French exchange student Alexis and Brenna, who is standing curiously still aside the path ahead, facing riverside brambles.

“Those squirrels are staring at me,” she explains as we approach.

Stare down
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Stare down
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Knee deep
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Knee deep
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“I used to work in an office there,” I say to Alexis, pointing. “I quit because it was too far from home.” He laughs since we’ve walked less than a mile.

“Those apartments weren’t here then,” I add, nodding at the neatly arrayed Rivery Quarry Apartments opposite the large parking lot.

“And before the other office was built, we worked here,” I say a hundred yards farther on, next to the orange Baybrook Court bridge. “We watched as this bridge was built.”

Thinking stone
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Thinking stone
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Brenna speeds ahead and finds a seat on a quarried block of sandstone. She looks thoughtfully at the river while waiting for us to catch up. Years before Brenna, I came out to the very same stone and looked similarly at the water, wondering where life would lead after divorce — a bit of history I don’t announce.

Something fishy
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Something fishy
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We cross the orange bridge and continue alongside the river past the rope swing and through Municipal Park. Alexis hasn’t seen it so we take a few minutes to loop through the small Nature Center. It’s too early for its flowers but fish are on the move.

Gathers no moss
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Gathers no moss
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Bright moss on smooth basalt decorates my favorite section of the Center’s manufactured creek. The dark boulders were brought in “from the Big Wood River below Magic Reservoir Dam.”¹

  1. Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center, “Stream Walk”: idfg.idaho.gov/…/stream-walk
Petroglyphs
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Petroglyphs
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Jessica reminds me that things I’m saying were five years ago were actually ten or more. It doesn’t seem so long.

Saint Augustine in the fourth century articulated the enigmas of time, concluding, “what then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.”¹ Is time forever divisible? Does it move in only one direction? Is “outside of time” coherent? Is change possible without time? Does the present moment have duration? If not, does it exist? Does the past exist?

  1. Saint Augustine, “Confessions,” Book XI: sacred-texts.com/…/aug11
Teleportation accident
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Teleportation accident
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If you could see ten years past you might observe Jess Jackson and I on one of our regular lunch walks through the Nature Center from yet another office building. Different experiences (people, places, priorities) at the seven different employers I’ve had since living in Boise seem like parallel universes, amalgamated in memory but not part of the same reality.

Rule of thirds
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Rule of thirds
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Time’s arrow
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Time’s arrow
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Edge of forever
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Edge of forever
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The Nature Center offers portals into parts of the creek conducive to different phases of fish life. It makes me think of an acclaimed, classic Star Trek episode, “City on the Edge of Forever,” wherein past times and places can be viewed and traveled to through an ancient extraterrestrial portal.

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Safety first
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Safety first
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Although happy to take over bicycling when Brenna tires of it after the Nature Center, Alexis isn’t ready to wear the unicorn helmet, in spite of compliments it’s garnered for Brenna today.

Fitting
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Fitting
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Later, when Brenna isn’t looking, he gives it a try.

Tic tac toe
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Tic tac toe
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We make burgers and beer at the RAM our terminus. We ask for seating in the area served by our neighbor Jaclyn who we’ve watched grow since she was our oldest daughter Laura’s grade school friend.

Detour
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Detour
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We marvel at the new Broadway Bridge as we cross to return home on the opposite side of the river. The wooden foot bridge along this side of the river is closed as expected.

It’ll be fine*
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It’ll be fine*
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“Lift your feet. I’ll push you,” I tell Brenna. This used to be part of my year-round bike commute. I’ve ridden it many times underwater and don’t think much of it. It’s just water.

  1. starPhoto by Alexis Coussa-Cariou
Take me back!*
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Take me back!*
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I find it deeper than other times I rode through. Brenna’s pleas and extra cold water convince me to retreat.

  1. starPhoto by Alexis Coussa-Cariou
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We pick our way through parking lots and a gap between fences to work our way around the flooding and back to the path.

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Brenna, as happens more often lately, wants a few posed pictures. She props herself on her elbows for one then sits with a knee drawn up and concludes with a fierce pose on her feet

Violation
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Violation
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In the manner of Hunter eleven years ago, Alexis trespasses on the flooding beneath the West Parkcenter bridge and returns triumphant, powder blue girl’s bicycle notwithstanding.

Always first
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Always first
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Crocus are always the most eager for spring, beating even the forsythia to bloom.

End for now
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End for now
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Our official survey ends a few blocks from home at the head of the dirt path among riverside poplars and cottonwoods where usually we begin a walk, a path Brenna has been following her whole life.