It is a little shy of two months since the sky opened up and fell all over Nashville and its environs. We were lucky, so very much so that none of the sorrows of the flooding touched us directly. We did not lose possessions, nor our house, nor a loved one or ourselves to the waters. We have shared those particular heartaches with many of our friends and loved ones. Friends lost irreplaceable momentos of a wedding before the age of digital cameras, a basement full of things precious, jobs at businesses that will be closed for some time, a house along the banks of a scenic river purchased for the quiet and the view, and other friends lost a friend who left behind young children. It is difficult now, since the waters are long dried and the piles of debris have mostly disappeared to realize how much was taken. Nashville is trying to get back to normal but some things are forever changed.
Before all this began, we had decided to switch as much as possible to eating local with some caveats (me without coffee? not pretty). The flood came the weekend we had decided to begin because it was the first pick up from our CSA with Avalon Acres. We had already switched to buying milk and what vegetables were available from local growers (greens, lotsa greens) at the Nashville Farmers Market. Our pick up was delayed a day because of the deluge on Sunday, the road closures and the danger of driving on water covered roads to get the truck and the people to the pick up location. When that Monday dawned our box was the furthest thing from our minds when we couldn’t contact friends that lived in one of the hardest hit areas. We did find them and they and their house were fine. We offered them a place with power and AC if they needed it and we ventured out in the bright sun to collect our box. Water still covered much of Nashville and everyone seemed thoughtful or shell-shocked.
Inside our box were things picked before the worst of the weather hit on Sunday. Spring lettuces, tiny radishes, a small chicken, smooth brown eggs, and small basket of Tennessee strawberries so fragrant the car smelled of them all the way home. We had not been out and the ride over and back was a distressing viewing of what was still submerged, what was damaged and what had been spared. With work and school and all that comes of modern life, the weeks since seem to have all blurred together. What has happened is we all seem more rooted to this place. Local isn’t just about what you choose to put on your plate. It is so much more about the people you buy that food from and their connection to the land and how dependent we all are on its fertility and the whim of the weather. It’s about where we choose to shop, to eat out, to buy our clothes, to bank, to have fun. Local is about who we are in this place at this time, the things that make us Nashville, or Chattanooga, or Omaha, or Seattle or Timbuktu. And, in a very organic way, it helps all those others places, too, because we aren’t pumping the atmosphere full of more carbon.
In Nashville’s postdiluvian period, there is still much to be done, much to clean and much to rebuild. There are places that are gone for good, farmer’s fields washed into the local creek bed, and fewer of some fruits and vegetables that were submerged right after they’d gone into the ground. In this June heatwave it’s a little harder to believe that it all even happened, having taken on that movie patina of memory. Maybe buying my milk at the Farmers Market and handing over that check for a CSA box won’t change the world or even Nashville, but deep down, I doubt that. I do believe that all our choices matter and if we can roll up our sleeves en masse to muck out the houses of strangers, we can make a huge difference in our local economy in everyday ways and get to know our neighbors, under better circumstances, in the bargain.