Sanford Strong

Sanford Strong

Sanford Strong

Normally, I try to share something from Carpe Librum every day. (Let’s not lie, often it’s pictures of my cat, who really likes books.) This has been a tough week, though, and cat pictures just don’t cut it.

My hometown flooded this week. And not just an “oh, crap, this rain won’t stop” flood, but the feeble old dams gave out and the levees breached and multiple lakes worth of water slammed through neighborhoods and towns. Nobody was killed, and yet so much was lost. Floods are hard to process mentally; the nature of the damage doesn’t give you time to grieve. You have to deal with every wet inch of carpet, every soggy piece of paper *right now* or the damage will get worse. The mental toll of all the decisions that have to be made instantly and the physical toll of all the work that has to be done immediately is literally staggering.
There are so many things to be proud of in the aftermath of this flood: that the evacuation worked, for starters, but now also the ad hoc distribution centers meeting people’s needs, the rescue of the children’s library materials, the high school athletes helping at multiple homes in a single day, the people feeding the workers… While pictures of the devastation keep showing up on my news feed, now so do pictures of needs being met, neighbors working together, smiles. I have seen smiles. And as much as I know hearts are hurting and worn out, the resilience and determination I’ve seen have made me so, so proud to have grown up there.

One thing that has caught a lot of attention—in a good way—is the steam shovel uncovered on the bottom of Wixom Lake! There are several news stories out there now about the Thew Type O Steam Shovel that was left in the lake after being used to build up the earth works around the dam.

(This is a Thew Type O Steam Shovel. It was used to build the Wixom Lake Dam in Michigan in 1925. Supposedly, when the dam was completed, they just left this there. It was too expensive to move out. Then the lake filled with water and it was never seen again. Over the years, it had became somewhat of a local legend. On May 19, 2020 it was uncovered when the Wixom Lake dam broke and all the water drained out of the lake.

Photo credit: Chance Cornwell.)

The steam shovel in Wixom Lake reminded me of a children’s book that I loved growing up. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was my cousin’s favorite book, and after he outgrew it they used to read it to my sister and I when we were visiting. In the book, the steam shovel is becoming obsolete technology, but Mike and Mary Anne (the name of his steam shovel) take a job and promise to get it done faster than anyone else could! Looking at it now, I think it might be a good time to break out this old favorite with a new generation of kids. So much in their world is changing right now, and we really can’t tell them what it will look like when we’re back up to full speed.

Change is inevitable, and it’s bittersweet. When change comes as fast as it has this year, the bitterness of loss feels like it outweighs the sweetness of new beginnings. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel is a book that can help kids (and maybe us adults, too) process the transitions our world is going through.

For Sanford and Mid-Michigan after the flood, for everyone in the chaos of 2020, I pray you can find the sweetness in the new things to come. I pray your grit and resilience keeps you fighting back and keeps you smiling (even if it is under a mask).


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