The Lazy Way of Water — and a Word About Union Busting

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

The thing to remember about water when the lowest level of your house is being flooded is that it’s as lazy as a three-toed sloth. Well, almost as lazy.  Sloths are known for hanging upside down and moving as little as possible. There’s a reason for this: their diet is made up almost entirely of leaves, and there’s not a lot of energy in leaves.  Sloths’ stomachs break their food down slowly, taking as much as a month to complete the process. No wonder they’re so slothful.

Water, on the other hand, runs downhill as fast as it can. The lazy part is that it takes the course of least resistance. It will dig a channel if it has to and overnight at our house it decided it had to. The downward-sloping 50-foot area, paved with trap rock, between my office door and the garage looks this morning like a scene from “A River Runs Through It.” It wasn’t like that last night. Water coming down off the hill to the north of the house has dug a channel six inches deep, sending the water into the woods past the garage. Better than coming through the office.

Our house is dug into a hill (memo to self: don’t do this again). The south side, where the office is, is at ground level. Said level slopes upward on the east and west sides, and the north end, the cellar where the pantry, furnace, and hot water tank are, is underground. We’ve had 91 inches of snow this winter. Rain started slowly on Saturday, the temps in the 40s. Sunday and overnight Monday we had torrents.  Hence the river outside. And the flood on the north end. Inside.

When Ed came downstairs to feed the cats around 5:30 this morning, he had to step around puddles. The very northernmost end of the cellar had a few inches of water.  Not enough to damage anything yet. Ed set up the sump pump in its hole near the furnace, just minutes before the water in the sump would have overflowed onto the cellar floor, joining what had come in from who-knew-where overnight. He assembled the wet-dry ShopVac and started vacuuming the deeper water into the sump, from whence the pump sent it through a hose out the window to somewhere near the lilac bush, which needs the water like a hole in the head.

Fairly neat, when it works.

Not to be outdone, I went outside to see where the water was coming in and figure out what might be done to discourage it. I found the place fairly soon, the corner where the bulkhead meets the foundation. Erosion, and some work we had done last summer, had made a nice little groove where the water could find its way in.

Three hours later, I’ve dug through a few feet of ice-topped snow pack to show the water an easier way to get downhill. The joy of seeing flowing water change course and go where you want it to go is almost as great as the greatest pleasure you can think of. All I did was make it easier for the water to run around the side of the house than through it. Then I put a blanket made of mouse-proof plastic bags where the nice little groove used to be, put some heavy stuff on top of the plastic, and I think we’ll be OK inside. Just to be sure, we’ve got the sump pump on automatic. And I’ve got everything that’s not waterproof up off the office floor. A few weeks from now (please, god) we’ll fill in that nice little groove and make a berm round it so the water won’t go that way again. Live and learn.

If you’re guessing I’m bone tired, you’ve got it right. But before I declare the rest of the day a reading period, I want to share something about current union-busting efforts in certain mid-West states, part of an essay by the progressive columnist Donald Kaul that is so right on I wish I’d written it myself.

Make no mistake about it: the attack on the public service unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana is the first volley in an all-out war by conservatives on all unions. If they succeed at destroying them, they’ll have eliminated the last great countervailing force against the political power of corporations in this country.

Now I’m not a great believer in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Hey, we’re Americans, right? [….]

But if there were such a conspiracy, it would conspire to appoint a Supreme Court that would rule that corporations and unions can spend virtually unlimited amounts on elections.

Then it would destroy the unions.

And then it would spend and spend and spend on elections and get really stupid people elected, people who would do its bidding.

Aren’t we lucky that there is no Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy?

You can read the whole column here.

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