I’m watching my son Brennin sleep in a tangle of blankets, one leg thrust defiantly from the covers, and I notice the occasional twitch as he falls into a deeper sleep. Tonight I feel the urge to look at him, really look, and it seems right before my eyes he is growing so fast. He is snoring while I look at his hair and its many hues of blond. It’s getting long but I don’t want to cut it, not yet. I’m already seeing his back elongate with very non-little boy muscles; I don’t want to hasten this process of growing. He has scars on his back from the summer, small dots from the fall off of the trampoline on one shoulder, like a cluster of stars. He refused to wear pajamas to bed, instead, opting for his favorite board shorts.
I feel as if he’s some displaced surfer child who washed up on my shore. I am laughing at this image in my head, as we have just had a huge history-making flood in the wild Colorado mountains where we live.
I also find it funny that one of the mantras I have adopted in the past year is to “be water.” I needed to be willing to move through the channels and flow over rocks and work with the current of my own life instead of building a dam against it. I haven’t listened lately. Ever since this whole flood situation started, I’ve been damming up my feelings about it. Until now, when I am in a safe space to let my floodgates open.
It took me two nights and nearly three days to get home to my son because of the closed roads. It felt like a demilitarized zone with all of the National Guard hummers and Chinooks circling overhead. My son was safe with his grandparents. The house was high enough from the floodwaters. I didn’t really sstart stressing out until he asked me over the phone, “Mommy, when are you coming home? I need you to come home.” I spent those three days feeling wracked with guilt for leaving for school that morning. The river looked high and slightly unstable but I couldn’t have known that in two hours or less, the water would rise by feet, not inches.
It was an odd juxtaposition of lives, skulking around the downtown Fort Collins area with people living normally, and inside of my head all I could think of was how and when I was going to get to my son who was 45 minutes away. Being relatively new in the area, I didn’t know a lot of people. For an entire day, I fought a surge of panic because I literally had nowhere to go. Sitting and nursing what was probably my eighth cup of coffee, an irrational surge of helpless isolation came strong and subsided under a sluice of rational thought. I had offers of couches and places to stay from random strangers. I toughened up my thoughts a little more as I realized that there were so many people who by virtue of a giant raging river, their homes were torn out from underneath them. The roadways were flooded out. There were those who truly had nowhere to go. No homes left. Even though I had to deal with an uncertain future, I told myself “You’re okay!” “Suck it up!”
I can’t quite describe the overwhelming mix of feelings I had when my little guy came tearing down the hallway and clung to me like a little monkey when I got home. We went to the devastation areas, and hiked around in the still-falling rain, looking where the roads had just…disappeared. It was a humbling sight. I thought that Brennin would be afraid but he scanned the area with the same joyful curiosity he observed the rest of the world with. We searched for white quartz rocks along the dirt where it was safer, and he sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and jumped in puddles. I took stock of blessings, this boy of mine being one of them. I marveled at it all.
The best way that I can describe the devastated roadways is this: it’s as if a great force shook the road like it was a ribbon or piece of fabric, making it ripple in the same way someone would make ripples in a tablecloth to shake the crumbs off of it. There are places that the water has settled in such a way that you might never know a road existed there in the first place. It is entirely erased. I can’t help but go back and look at the missing road just down from our driveway. The sun shines nowadays, and the beauty of the rushing water is an eerie calm against the stark contrast of the jagged peaks of the broken pavement. For all of its sturdy construction that trustily led me home each day, it was no match for the surging river. The water found its obstacle, and by just being itself, it went over it, undercutting the dirt and mire, until it forcibly broke through as if it was a brittle toothpick. Reflecting with a humble and grateful heart, I now understand how powerful it can be to “just” be water.