I facilitated a sharing of stories at the AGM of my local community organisation last night. I began by noting that, while the January flood had defined the year, it was not the only thing we had all experienced in the past 12 months. I asked people to think about how the flood may have influenced their year. What had they learnt about themselves? About their community?
I didn't want people to re-experience the flood. It was hard enough the first time without doing it all over again in our imaginations. Still, the flood did dominate the conversation.
Two women who had never met before January had ended up working alongside each other for the whole year in a Flood Recovery Centre, 5 months of that as volunteers. They are chalk and cheese and yet now best friends. They met the Queen. One was overcome with excitement; the other, of Scottish heritage, was completely uninterested in Her Majesty. They laugh a lot and finish each others stories.
Norma is 84. She spoke of the good things to come from the flood; the people who had helped; the relatives rallying around. She's moved on. She is still reminded of the experience in strange ways. "Yesterday I wanted to thicken some cream but I couldn't find my eggbeater anywhere." Gone. Thrown out by helpful volunteers in the days after the flood. It's become her convenient excuse for not doing things she doesn't want to do. " Oh I can't, sorry, that got thrown out after the flood."
My neighbours moved in 12 months ago - November 2010. He had a book collection and stored them under his house while he organised shelving upstairs. He lost the lot. They moved out last week, 12 months to the day. I haven't spoken to them since the week of the flood when we delivered some food to them. I guess the thought of a repeat experience was too much to bear.
January will be a strange time for many people.