Then came the floods…

By Morgan Karpiel

Krakow just endured a week of heavy rain and flooding, with over three hundred people evacuated and one of the main bridges closed. The local news programs streamed nonstop video of people gathered on the banks of the swollen river, many in awe, taking pictures of sidewalks and signs submerged under lashing brown currents.

For me, it was the perfect image of the month. I’ve had to accommodate my share of personal disasters lately, many of the plans I’ve made uprooted by business quakes, many of the bridges I’ve built washed away under torrential twists of fate. I find myself waiting it out every day, less and less certain about when the storm will pass. Sometimes there’s a bit of panic, often followed by an unhealthy dose of sentiment, or a stiff shot of self-loathing, and then I realize, again, that this might all just be vanity.

Too often, I find myself expecting that everything will turn out for the best. But what is the “best”? Is that the scenario in which I’m never made to feel pain or hardship without reward, the scenario which always has a happy ending or a silver lining?

I happened to run into an old business associate of mine the other day and, for the sake of the blogosphere, we’ll call him Kevin. He was sitting at a café table along the square, a cigarette in one hand and a dog leash in the other. The dog was somewhere under the chair, a tired old hound.

Kevin had recently left his position at a company he’d invested heavily in. He’d sunk five years of his life, and countless thousands of his own money, into a venture that ended badly. He’d lost his career, his savings and his girlfriend, all in the period of about six months. But he still had the dog.

“It’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?” he asked. “What you have and what you don’t have. Disaster is merely a way of changing that perspective.”

I answered something like, “You’re quite poetic when you’re depressed. You’re not going to go swinging by your neck-tie, are you?”

“Oh, c’mon,” he said. “I am merely posing for you.”

On the opposite side of the square, though not on the same day, I went to go visit another friend of mine (ironically also a former business associate). For the sake of the story, we’ll call him Jack.

Jack had decided to open a restaurant. He’d secured an excellent location, but was operating on a limited start-up budget and was worried about the future. He poured me a drink and we sat outside, watching all the tourists who would pause at his door, then inexplicably walk away. He lit up a cigarette and narrowed his eyes on the waitress standing by the door.

“We carry a very exclusive beer,” he told me. “Very dark, rich. It is made locally and not that many people offer it. But last night, a man walked by and asked this girl if we had Guinness. You know what she said? ‘No.’ This is all she said. She didn’t say that we had this other beer that he might enjoy and we welcome him to sit down and try it. She just said ‘no’ and he left.”

I nodded. What to say?

“I had a good plan,” he continued. “But I thought there would be at least some sunny days. People come here when it’s sunny, or on warm nights. They sit outside and drink and eat and everything’s fine. I didn’t plan for that not to happen. I didn’t think it would be rainy and cold for months. I didn’t plan for this f%&^$#g weather.”

Well, I thought, who can plan for the f%&^$#g weather?

During the same week, yet another friend of mine lamented over the phone, telling me how many family members and friends she had lost in a short period of time. She’d attended two funerals the week before and had just received word that a young man, a dear friend of the family, had passed away after a tragic accident.

“You don’t expect to have to deal with this all at once,” she told me. “I’m just so tired. I want all this bad news to be over.”

So I went to the river, more thoughtful than morose, and I stood there looking at the water rage so close to the stone barrier. It occurred to me that everything that had been there before, all the grassy areas, the sidewalks and signs, all of the evidence of order and control were gone. All that was left was this rushing brown current, its flows spinning with violent whorls and eddies, its hunger greater than anything I understood.

I thought of all the things I’d recently lost, the people and the opportunities that had been washed away by circumstance, or by choice. And I tried to say goodbye.

The waters began to recede yesterday. There is even some hint of the sun today, a return of the tops of sign posts and stone steps surrendered by the flood. Next week, there will be a new landscape to gaze at, perhaps only be sidewalks covered by mud and tree branches, but some stable ground nonetheless.

Did it turn out for the “best”? Is there a silver lining? It occurs to me that those terms may simply describe the opportunity to appreciate the things that are truly important to us, because it’s not always possible to hold onto them.

I think maybe Kevin said it best. What you have and what you don’t have. Disaster is merely a way of changing that perspective.


  1. Wow, Morgan. What an amazing post. Thoughtful, insightful, profound. Really leaves me thinking...

    Reminds me also of The Hanged Man in the Tarot.

    In the Rider-Waite deck, he's hanging upside down by a foot, the other is folded bhind his knee in a half-lotus. Golden rays surround his head like an aura. He represents changed perspective. He's bound, he's 'helpless', yet the radiance beaming out suggests he's seeing what others cannot. Fascinating stuff.

    Thanks for a riviting read.


  2. Thank you Morgan!

    You brought tears to my eyes!! I can't possibly express it any better than Chiron above. She said it best. The Hanged Man. So true!

    It's been a couple of years of nearly unbearable stuff, one after the other. What I thought was a given in my life is not there anymore and it's hard not to feel sorry for myself. But it is all about perspective. I have so much still and once this tide will wash away, it will be a whole new landscape, full of all new opportunities.

    I'll share this piece on FB, it's just soo beautiful!

  3. Wonderful and poignant, Morgan. And so true that disaster makes clear those things which are most important to us. Difficult, but sometimes it can lead us on a better path. I hope it leads you there too.
    Chiron, you never fail to amaze me. Nina, hugs to you too!

  4. Thanks Chiron, I really enjoyed the connection with The Hanged Man, the feeling of being helpless and yet still aware and learning in our desperation. No image could have said it better :-) --thanks also for the tips on spammers, that freaky spam was starting to get to me.

  5. Hi Nina, thank you so much for reading my post, I'm very grateful that it touched you. It was sunny here today. It's amazing what a little time and a little warmth can do. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the clouds clear up for you very soon :-)

  6. Hi Cate! Thanks, I'm trying my best. I have high hopes for the next adventure, whatever it might be :-)

  7. Morgan,

    I just wanted to come back and share with you that your piece followed me all day. In my thoughts, it kept coming up and helping me to realize how small I am in the grand scheme of things. In a good way! I'm a Leo and we're known to believe that the world revolves around us.

    Also, you put a personal touch to the news this morning, as I followed the continuing saga unfolding in Krakow... I hope the sun remains and no more rains!


  8. Morgan, what a powerful post. I'm glad you were able to make connections between what is happening to you personally, and the visual scenes of the flood unfolding before you. The universe will speak to you if you let it.

    Hoping your own plans and dreams find their way to dry land.

  9. Hi Morgan:

    I left a comment for you before but it disappeared. Excellent post - once again you have written a thought provoking piece that has left us all deeply moved.


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