The narrow wooden bridge creaked and shifted visibly as Bill O’Donnell leaned over the one-sided rail to peer at the clear stream below. Laughing at our concerned looks, he explained that the bridge is only secured to the ground on one end. This gives the other end the freedom to lift and move with any rising flood waters, and the little bridge can avoid any serious flood damage.
“It’s very zen,” O’ Donnell concluded, “It doesn’t try to resist the flood, it just goes with it.”
It’s a fitting image for the mysterious and subtle water system of south central Missouri. And it’s a fitting lesson for the first day of the FRI. The fire hose example has been used, quite accurately, but O’ Donnell’s comment immediately sounded familiar. The information that came rushing at us from every site, in such a short time, gave me the distinct sensation of flailing in rising flood waters.
At the first stop, I think I panicked and choked on all the water around me. Instead of focusing on a particular angle and taking good notes, I took messy and confused notes on everything we saw and heard.
By the time we reached Round Springs and met O’Donnell, I had already started to grasp his words of wisdom. “Just go with it.” This is surely the only way to deal with the onslaught of potential stories—stop writing frantically, look around you, and take in what you can without panicking. Don’t resist the information by categorizing it all perfectly, just go with what you catch and keep that audio recorder running.
Emily Garnett, edited by Ben Unglesbee