James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater Chronicles

A Thousand-Year Rain

 

With my sabbatical-slash-recovery from the writing of the 2015 Faulkner-Wisdom Finalist and hot-topic literary epic DIXIANA scheduled for this past summer, conveniently and grimly enough, alongside what became the omega point of my mother’s terminal illness, the plan for September had been to dive back into a quote-unquote normal writing cycle. For all sorts of reasons, I’ve found that process more like easing in a toe than jumping in with both feet. Grief over my mother, I have discovered, falls upon one’s soul like no rain ever. Nothing like losing your mom. Still recovering. Will be so for some time, I’m sure.

And then this Major Event in the lifeblood of the community happened, giving me something else over which to grieve, an unprecedented local natural disaster that in a cruel way seemed to mirror the magnitude of my tears over mom:

(Image courtesy Jordan Tessler/Capital Weather Gang)

(Image courtesy Jordan Tessler/Capital Weather Gang)

Homes flooded. Businesses swept away. Roads undermined. Anyone with a passing interest has surely read the accounts or seen the images on the TV news cycle.

Weeks later, all has faded into the slipstream for the rest of the world, but South Carolina will continue to shake itself off for a long time to come. Not the best time for a natural disaster, but when is? All one can say to those who have lost property or loved ones is that, so long as you have your life, you hold in your hand the hope for recovery and redemption.

That’s something this town knows deep in the fabric of its personal identity. Cleansed—or perhaps punished—once in fire, now Columbia feels as though it has been baptized in a coffee-colored deluge, our waterways churning and febrile, a nightmare Willy Wonka river of sour destruction that threatened the very way of life in this town: grocery store shelves emptied fast, the water supply, if it flowed at all, no longer potable; and perhaps longest-lasting in its economic and daily impact on the lives of many South Carolinians, major roadways remain either imperiled, undermined, and obstructed. Compelling evidence that we are fragile. That our homes are eggshells, our bodies tender and prone to abject depredation on a moment’s whim of nature’s awe-inspiring, all-encompassing might.

Our control over the elements is modest. Ain’t it.

Perhaps the worst practical aspect facing the DOT and the legislature in terms of road recovery is that the state already needed a billion dollars in roadway infrastructure upgrades. Now double that number to fix the problems that are acute in their immediacy. For Tea Party favorites like our Governor and congressional delegation, this will likely constitute an awkward road to recovery, pun certainly intended. How easy will it be for these politicians who voted against Hurricane Sandy relief on political grounds to now rally a bipartisan vote to fund SC road repairs? Ouch. Any of those figures standing with hat in hand for Federal money might well as see their WSJ-style caricature inscribed in the dictionary next to ‘hypocrite’.

 

Rockbridge Road in the Columbia, S.C., area, damaged by floodwaters. (Facebook Photo/Gills Creek Watershed Association/Erich Miarka)

Rockbridge Road in the Columbia, S.C., area, damaged by floodwaters. (Facebook Photo/Gills Creek Watershed Association/Erich Miarka)

 

Alas, it is the constituents on the ground trying to put themselves back into a state of normalcy who will suffer the most, of course. But I digress.

In any case, while my wife and I ‘suffered’ what we call normal flooding inside our little hippie haven, Loose Lucy’s, located in Columbia’s iconic hipster neighborhood known as Five Points, what we call a flood happens often due to our geography, and is but a minor inconvenience compared to all those who lost homes, livelihoods, pets and other family members in the great deluge of 2015. We remain duly grateful for our good fortune amidst all this difficulty, and look forward to helping our community heal and recover.

In the meantime, the writer’s journey will continue here at Edgewater County Confidential, where I’ll soon post more about how I plan to bring to the reading public what’s now become a lengthy series of novels now completed (or in various stages of refinement—they are never finished-finished, even when they get printed by somebody).

First up will be a full-length novel, LET THE GLORY PASS AWAY, which in its final polish has been fully back-engineered to set up both my slightly fictionalized Columbia, but more important re-introduce the reader to the environs of Edgewater County, SC in a more formal way than in either King’s Highway or Fellow Traveler. Home to many tragicomic literary adventures to come, particularly in the DIXIANA series that represents the heart and soul of my literary output to date, I will begin serializing some of LTGPA here and elsewhere before rolling out an omnibus e-book and print edition, perhaps as soon as spring 2016. Stay tuned.

Lastly, thanks much to the many people who have reached out to me lately not only to express condolences over the death of my mother, but also over the grim news regarding our weather events here in South Carolina. It has been a tough year for me personally as well as for our state, but I know that I have come through feeling hale, hearty, and relatively whole. May it also be so for South Carolina. From my tumultuous experience in life, I’ve found that in the ashes of tragedy lie possibilities, the seeds of renewal and return. What will grow? What magnificent blooms from the garden of our suffering shall we admire in the springtime? We’ll all have to co-create that reality, I suppose, when it gets here.

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About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest novel Let the Glory Pass Away releases in January 2017.

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