We are waterlogged. It has stopped raining for now, but Dane County where I live, has received epic amounts of rain over the past few weeks. Just before my husband and I left on a recent trip to Portugal, somewhere between 11 and 15 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Flash flood warnings bellowed across the television and streets looked like rivers with water a foot deep.
News video the next day showed cars abandoned in roads, rising lake water, and a flooded Costco. I pet my dog Chai as I a read report on Facebook of a friend who spent the night at work because she couldn’t get home. As I did, I felt my dog’s ears, wondering if they had always been so thick. I thought the flaps should feel thinner between my fingers.
Later as I checked her ears again, they had grown like the swollen ground. She didn’t seem to be bothered by them, and it was too late to call the vet. Hoping to help avoid a crisis one day before we left on vacation, I tried some home remedies, giving her Benadryl and squirting some ear drops in while coaxing her with peanut butter.
The next morning only one ear was still puffy. I called the vet and set up an appointment for mid-day. By then the other ear had started to shrink back to normal size, though not all the way. The vet said ear swelling was sometimes related to an ear hematoma where a dog’s ear flap fills with blood when a dog scratches or shakes their ear too hard. But she didn’t feel that was what Chai had since her ears weren’t that swollen. She sent me home with some ointment, which we could send to the dog sitter. But by the next day the swelling was nearly gone.
I assumed the flooding was done too. It was only a little misty when we took off on our flight from Dane County Airport. But a few days later, I began seeing that there was not only flooding in Dane County, but now throughout the state. In Port Washington, my hometown, almost 9 inches of rain flooded basements and closed the Interstate. News bulletin after news bulletin flooded my email inbox with notices about yet another county being added to a flood watch or disaster area. One morning my husband woke to texts about a probable tornado in the county where his brother lives, which had knocked down multiple trees in his yard.
As we moved to the Algarve on the Portugal Coast, our landscape couldn’t have been more different. The ground was dry and dusty, leaving a brown coating on my sandals and feet. Everything I touched seemed to leave my hands gritty. Portugal has been dealing with its own force of nature in the form of heat and wildfires. It was only the beginning of August when the temperature soared to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and a wildfire burned more than 50,000 acres in the southern part of the country.
The Algarve coast is known for its rugged Atlantic coastline. The water has worn away the limestone and depending on the tide secret grottoes, passageways, bays, and beaches reveal themselves. We explored the area on all levels, climbing on top of the cliffs, walking along the beaches and dipping in the water. Each revealed a new way to see the beauty.
On the beach we could walk from cove to cove, ducking through hidden archways and tunnels from one stunning beach to another. Beautiful shells washed up on the beach and left there with the tide caught the light. In the water, we paddled under the rocks on kayaks, looking up through skylights of erosion.
And then one by one as the tide rolled in, all these gems were gone. On our way to the Algarve we heard on the news of tourists who had to be rescued by the Coast Guard because they didn’t leave a beach in time and were stranded at high tide. It was a reminder to us as we explored the region the fleeting nature of these beautiful places.
We left for home from the small Faro airport, which led to an overnight layover in Amsterdam, another layover in Detroit, before a final flight home to Madison. It wasn’t the most convenient flight, but leaving from Faro saved us a drive back to Lisbon, and flying into Madison saved us a drive back home from Chicago or Milwaukee at the end of the trip. Still, the total trip took 15 hours, plus sleeping in the airport.
We had done a ton of walking on the trip and my feet were killing me already, but by the time we finally got in the car to make the short drive home my feet were swollen to twice their normal size. As we made the long way home, avoiding multiple streets that were still closed in Madison, I noticed the sogginess of the landscape as another storm moved in.
I wasn’t sure if my feet had brought some of the saltwater home with me or had become bloated to show sympathy with the water-logged landscaped. I wondered if that’s what Chai’s ears had done before we left.
Thankfully, in the past few days, it has finally stopped raining and my feet have returned to their previous size. Chai’s ears are back to normal too. As we go for a walk it’s as if we are walking through low tide after the flood. The debris isn’t as beautiful as the colorful shells of the Algarve, but it belongs to the rain. I wave off the mosquitos and poke at the mushrooms growing in the edges of the sidewalk.
Originally published at catherinelanser.com on September 8, 2018.