Animals in the Flood

The flood continued for forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings;everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. (Genesis 7:17-22, NRSV)

When #1 Son was a little boy, we sat down on the couch one day to read Peter Spier’s Noah’s Ark, a picture book. I remember his response to the image of the animals left behind as the waters closed over their heads; to say our hearts were wrenched is not putting it too strongly.

I read a story last night (International Herald Tribune, I think) that described a little boy having his dog torn away from him as he boarded the bus to Houston. I saw a piece on MSNBC about a handyman who swam through the flood waters for 8 hours with his dogs; no one wanted to pick them up. He is blaming himself for not fleeing with them when he might have–but where would they have gone?

We also have two big dogs, 90 and 120 pounds, and three cats, and how could we think of leaving any of them if we had to evacuate for some reason? I would no more leave a child behind. But if we had to get away, we would have a credit card to take, with a honking big credit limit, because I have a husband who won’t leave a balance on a credit card for five minutes at a time.

I’m privileged. And very lucky. There is someone to take care of me. There is a station wagon in the driveway, bought with money my parents left me, that would fit us all if need be.

My biggest problem today is wondering whether I’ll need to fill up on the way back from taking #1 Son to college tomorrow. If we don’t drive too many places today, we should be able to get to Connecticut and back without needing more gasoline.

But most people in the face of flood and fury are more like those animals in the Noah story. Remember that Noah only took two of each kind. So many more wondered why they were leaving at all. Picture those left behind in New Orleans, mostly fine after the hurricane, puzzled and confused and horrified as the waters rose and rose and rose.