By Nathaniel Eric Seals
Wilkes-Barre, this is a place of deteriorated splendor. In the sixties, this place looked like the bustling concrete jungle of a true city. Wilkes-Barre is built on the Susquehanna River. In 1972, Mother Nature humbled us humans by conjuring the storm that was Agnes. As a reminder of her ever-present dominance, Wilkes-Barre remains a skeleton of what it once was. Forty-one feet of flood water from the Susquehanna River ravaged and destroyed Wilkes-Barre. In an attempt to prevent a repeat of the devastation caused by Agnes, a levee system was built to hold off future floodwaters. Instead of simply being a stingy “Keep Out!” wall, the river commons compliments the Susquehanna and adds to its beauty. Nature is ever present in our earthling lives. The river is a powerful representation of the nature that surrounds us.
As it destroys, it also does provide. On a warm summer evening looking out on the river commons, both sides of the bank are lined with families who know the splendor of the catch. The Susquehanna River has a rich and diverse population of fish. The fish worth catching come out at night and in this river lay monsters. These channels and flatheads will snap your line clean off if you’re not savvy with a rod and reel. This place can make you forget that you’re in a city riddled with homelessness, drugs, crime, and more. It makes you forget the wall-bouncing vagabond, begging for a dollar to buy a 40 for the day. It makes you forget the corruption in the criminal justice system at the courthouse that sits just over your right shoulder. On the other shoulder, as if to unintentionally tell some corny ‘devil on one, angel on the other’ tale, “No Good” Jesus pleasantly fulfills his role. At night, the lights from the Market Street Bridge stretch up river creating a ladder of lights in the ripples of the current. The breeze on the river is refreshing. The river is beautiful, serene, and calm, aside from the timely jump of any unknown monster fish and the zipping of the vehicles crossing in and out of Wilkes-Barre.
These are the peaceful summer nights.
The river is a place to revere nature. When the storm clouds roll in, they do so swiftly. Closer to the horizon the clouds darken. Certain rain, possible thunder and lightning if we are so lucky. Storms truly are beautiful, so packed with emotion. The wind pushes the scent of rain into your nostrils. The cool breeze of the river becomes an icy breeze just cold enough to give you goose bumps. The wind whips and slows, then whips harder and harder. The first roll of thunder rumbles low; the storm is still a few miles out. What little sunlight remains creeps through in concentrated bits through the edge of the storm. It seeps out fully as it falls behind the horizon. Mother Nature is putting on a show of force for us. The river begins getting unsettled. The first bolt of lightning flashes in the distance. Watching a storm roll into town is relaxing, until you’re soaked by the downpour.