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In Sumerian cosmology (and, because of them, Babylonian, and because of them, most other Semitic peoples of the ancient Near East and Middle East), the world as we know it is a sphere bounded above by An, Heaven, and below by Ki, Earth. Between them is the realm of Enlil, the air/wind/atmosphere; the realm of Enki, the surface of the earth and the waters above and within it; and the realm of Ereshkigal, the Underworld. And this sphere, which encompasses all the realms of humans and gods, is suspended in the vast cosmic ocean, the salt water from which all comes and to which all eventually goes - the realm of Nammu, the great dark creatrix-mother. The ocean within the sphere is of Her and part of Her, but it is only a tiny part of Her.

Now, that part of Nammu within the sphere of creation was later named Tiamat and slain, so that Marduk could pretend He did the creating. Later on, that same being was split in two as Marduk did, and named Tohu wa Bohu, or Leviathan and Behemoth, and it was Yahveh who did the slaying and creating. (Much, much later, the wizards of TSR called them Tiamat and Bahamut, and then Takhisis and Paladine, and both understood and misunderstood who they were. And a young girl of ten found them that way, and took ten years to fight her way back to understanding Them and Her, and became a priestess along the way. But that's another story.)

We know, now, that as a physical representation of the universe, this is wrong. But as a description of psychological reality, in which there is a bubble half of conscious awareness and light half of underground subconscious in the dust and the dark, amid a dark and swampy sea of unconscious self, it works fine for me.


---


So I wrote a story for the most recent Channel Awesome Big Bang (Link to the masterpost if you're curious; includes links to the mixes and artwork). My usual experience with Big Bangs has up until this point almost always been with multifandom Bangs, in particular [Bad username or unknown identity: scifibigbang.livejournal.com]. It's been a good experience writing-wise; let me be upfront about that. Several of my best longform RGB works have been for that Bang. So has what is probably my most popular onrunning series, Eighth Dimension And Beyond, in which Buckaroo Banzai has so far gotten tossed into the Eureka, Back to the Future, and Firefly 'verses, and which I will almost certainly revisit the next time my Buckaroo muse comes a-knocking. (Someone has suggested that Banzai in the Bab5-verse would make a lot of sense. I might have to rewatch Bab5.) However, almost none of the usual fanartists really wanted to deal with my tiny and unfamiliar fandoms, so except for the one time I was able to convince a GB fandom artist to sign up just to make a banner for me for (it's also my Twitter icon), the artwork I always got was almost always a collage put together in Photoshop. Again, to be fair, the Photoshop collage pieces I got for "Through Fire And Rain" were damned impressive, but even so, there's something a little less personal about that kind of artwork than something drawn with pencil and ink or stylus and tablet. And my story was almost always one of the last to be chosen, picked by someone to get the board cleared so that second claims could start and they could grab the story they really wanted on the next pass. (There was one exception - "Programs and User Have A Common Descent" got some interesting watercolor-ish art, which I had forgotten about until I just looked back at my AO3 listings, and I feel silly about forgetting, because it was pretty awesome too.)

This time, though, three different people claimed my silly angstball of a story. One did a lovely piece of art, illustrating a specific scene from the fic in a style that's about as far from Photoshop collage as possible. And it feels more - personal, I guess? - than the one for "Programs and Users," which is the only art I've gotten before that was even comparable.

And two people claimed the piece for fanmixes, one of which also came with a piece of cover art, so in a sense I actually got four pieces of bonus content for this fic. An embarrassment of riches! The fanmixes were a really new experience for me, since I don't thing SFBB allowed them as art submissions unless they came with cover art. Interestingly enough, they both touched on the "water = unconscious emotions not dealt with" metaphor that I had used in the fic but hadn't made a big deal of (or at least I hadn't thought I did). It's a common enough metaphor that it showing up in the music selections isn't surprising, exactly, but I was pleased that it happened in both.

They also both used songs I like but hadn't heard in a long time - in the first one, Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends," which used to be a guilty pleasure for me but which I probably hadn't head in a decade, and in the other one Oingo Boingo's "Same Man I Was Before," which I had not head in at least two decades and which was an interesting memory trip for me. (The second one also includes a song from the TRON: Legacy soundtrack, and another song called "Space Paranoids," which is intriguing me now, given that the last time I got art that properly related to the story it was for a TRON crossover fic!)

And then there was the end song for the second one, which I hadn't heard before, and which sent me down a memory trip of an entirely different kind.


---


In 2005, I was teaching in a very large, very diverse high school in far southwest Houston. Well, it was very diverse in the sense of ethnicity - about 33% Latino, about 33% African-American (or in some cases just African, as there was a non-trivial Nigerian immigrant community in the district), about 25% Asian-American (a big chunk of the west Houston Little Asia makes up the northeast corner of the district), and the rest Euro-American (including a fairly large contingent of first- and second-generation Serbian and Bosnian immigrants). In terms of economic diversity, it was mostly what the school districts refer to as 'economically disadvantaged' students - impoverished to lower-working-class - with a chunk of students from the upper levels of working-class and a few from the lower rungs of the middle class. The exceptions were almost all the children of Asian-American immigrants who had worked their way up the economic ladder rung by rung to fully middle-class by opening and running their own businesses.

A week into the '05-'06 school year, Katrina hit New Orleans. Houston, of course, threw open its metaphorical doors and absorbed thousands of the children of the storm, whose parents suddenly had to hunt for housing they could afford to stay in for a month, which turned into months, which turned into a year, which turned - for many of them - into forever.

Did I mention a lot of the cheap apartment housing in Houston is on the southwest side? Our school's population went from slightly more than the building was built for to bursting at the seams, with students who ... um ... let's just say that they weren't prepared even for our school's only mildly demanding curriculum. Academically, all but a few of those students had a great deal of trouble adjusting to the new curriculum, partly because Texas does some things in a different order from Louisiana, but often just because their old schools just hadn't covered things. At all.

And that's just academically. These were kids, teenagers, who had lost almost everything they'd ever known. Some of them had never left New Orleans before; many more had never left Louisiana. They'd been uprooted like saplings on the bank of a flooding bayou, swept to a different place and left piled on the shore in random heaps of flotsam. If they were lucky, a few of the other friends from their underwater neighborhoods also landed in our school district, either at our school or the two sister schools. Not all of them were lucky. Many of them knew no one at our school who wasn't related to them, and suddenly had to deal with a completely new universe crowded with strangers, a new social hierarchy they had no place in, and a student body that was quick to smile and say hello but slow to actually open their social circles to these newcomers - all on top of losing their homes and possessions, and sometimes relatives and friends, to the floodwaters.

The last song on the second fanmix was a Jimmy Buffet song, "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On," that I had never heard before. (I am a very casual Buffet fan, at best.) It's about trauma recovery, about picking yourself up out of the floodwater and learning to breathe and walk away, which is why it made its way into the fanmix - but it's also more specifically about Katrina. And I heard it, and suddenly I was in an overcrowded classroom again, with strange kids in a strange land who cried and raged at the slightest provocation, and didn't always understand why, and sometimes did. Children on the cusp of adulthood, at the mercy of water and memory.

I changed schools the next year. The school I ended up at was also huge, but it was in central Houston, and there were a lot fewer cheap apartments in its attendance zone. There was no public school in the greater Houston/Galveston metro area that didn't have a handful of Katrina's refugees, but this school had fewer and had done a better job of integrating them with the rest of the student body.

The title of the album the song is from is "Take the Weather With You".

Ike arrived a few weeks into the school year two years after that. Galveston's and Bolivar's children joined New Orleans's, although at least Galveston's kids mostly went home a year or so later. Not all of them. We were out of school for a week and out of power for nearly two. (The Spouse was also dealing with the death of his mother right then, but this is a story about water, not earth.)

Central Houston flooded hard last May, not quite to Tropical Storm Allison levels but close. It's been doing the same this month, hitting hundred-year flood levels twice in a year's span. We missed two days of school earlier this month. My phone's been blowing up with flood warnings all afternoon. No name to pin on these storms, except maybe El Nino.

One of my students now, about to graduate, pulled a driver out of her car before it floated away and then sank during last year's floods. About a month ago, before it started flooding again, he remembered being abused as a kid, memories he'd not so much repressed as denied for years. He's been working through clinical anxiety for most of his high school career and only just now understood why. He came to me flashback-y and trembling a week ago and begged off making up a quiz he'd missed, because he couldn't concentrate from the memory flood. I sent him to the counselor's office with my blessing, in more ways than one, and wished I could offer more.

If a hurricane doesn't leave you dead,
Then it will make you strong.
Don't try to explain it, just bow your head.
Breathe in, breathe out, move on.




Water. Trauma. Air. Memory. Tears in rain, courage in the flood.

Nammu, Tiamat, Enlil, Marduk. Powers that be, bless me, bless these my children, pass us by.
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