It turns out that the dramatic show that the Oust river put on in our town was just a hint of the devastation that was sweeping the western French coastline. We emerge from the haze of vacation (where we watched the news several nights, but not when the first images of this storm hit) to the sobering realization that we are very lucky indeed. The coverage at Le Monde is excellent, complete with maps and photos.
This map in particular shows you the path of the storm pattern Xynthia - if you blow it up big, we're one of two department between the light grey line and the dark grey line on the west coast of France (those two are the Finistère and the Morbihan, and we're the Morbihan). Josselin itself is far enough inland that we weren't bound to flood, but nonetheless, there have been several factors here that have made for really difficult (and sometimes fatal) combinations: the storm itself, really high winds which broke levies (some of them 5 km long), and very high tides (it's a full moon) which raised everything coming in from the sea. Sarkozy viewed the damage today, 3 million Euros are pouring into the region, and the dead and missing are mourned. The departments of Charente-Maritime and the Vendée were the hardest hit.
We spent our vacation along the second set of red lines going counter-clockwise from the top of France (I can only imagine the beating that Fort La Latte took - wow! it was barely drizzling when we were there and it was intense). And Nantes is right where the third set of red lines going counter-clockwise is. There's lots and lots of talk about the levies, and did the government know they would break (yes), and what are they going to do now (the Army will be involved in reconstruction efforts). Shades of New Orleans and Katrina - but only shades, thankfully. Still, at a certain point when water reclaims the land it all seems devastating.
The kids remain pretty uncomprehending of it all, but were very sympathetic to "the French of France" as Iris put it. They went back to school without skipping a beat - can't say the same for myself. I missed them terribly today, and also found myself missing DePauw (lots of fervent stuff going on there) - kind of between worlds. The kids seemed very vulnerable to me today: Oliver's fragile skin, Iris still sucking her thumb, Eleanor and her little left leg that turns in. Never quite sure what to do with those feelings of vulnerability (which are really feelings of helplessness) but to plow through the hours when we'll all be together and all those vulnerabilities melt away in the face of their forthrightness. I always feel especially pushed to try to do good work when I feel this way. Nothing miraculous today, just plugged away on a couple of books and tidied up bibliography. Mac prepared his two-week trip to Germany later this month - exciting!
We're going to settle in and watch "Des Glaciers et des Hommes" on on-line arte (a PBS-like station shared by France and Germany). Another example of terrifically daunting nature.
18 hours ago