How Fragile We Are





Boulder - 9.13.13

Woke up from a dead sleep last night with the sirens blaring.  On and on and on.  Still fogged, hear scratchy warnings being barked from hidden speakers in all directions.   This is not the Blitzkreig in London, or calls to prayer in Istanbul. This is Boulder, and we are being told to get away from the creek which has become a powerful, surging river through town.

We fire up the media.   Emergency management is warning:

Boulder Creek is currently flowing at approximately 4,900 cubic feet per second; almost double the volume from earlier today. There are mudslides at the mouth of Boulder Canyon 400 feet long and 4 feet deep as the sides of the canyon give way due to the saturation from the days long rain. Boulder County officials are worried that the mud and rock slides will clog Boulder Creek, causing water to collect upstream and then release, causing a sudden surge in water volume downstream.

#boulderflood on Twitter is a constant stream of CU students having fun in the water. Pictures of water in places it has never been.  Notes of impending doom, and comfort, and prayers, and recycled news.

Logged onto the Denver TV station streaming and the 15 second ad said, “the smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child.  Be a good Dad today.” Lots of videos of water streaming in the dark with no context.  No location.  No visual clues.  All videos on a loop.  Over and over.  The land of vines. In the middle of the emergency media briefing they cut to a commercial. Just like the football game last week where the players stood around while the commercials ran again and again.  If you missed the warnings on TV you can read them online - on the emergency management website.  Tweeted and re-tweeted in bits and bytes. Rewritten in the local newspaper online.  Big circles of information swirling.

What is not shared is this:   The mother stranded with her kids in Sunshine Canyon whose husband went out with the volunteer fire dept.  Their electricity is off.  Their access roads compromised.   She is tough but stuck at home with her kids and sketchy well-water.  The people who lived an admittedly charmed life for 99.9 years in Boulder, where suddenly a week of non-stop brings on the 100 year flood. Their basements, then their first floor are drenched with dirty water.  Still the Dad must work and goes up to the second floor to get on conference calls.  The kids scatter. They are resourceful.  Our friend Polly whose pre-school in the basement of her home was doing fine until she barely opened the door and the water on the outside raced in.  Then all the people in Lyons whom we have not even heard from yet.  Whose town is totally demolished from the overflowing, St. Vrain River.  The once shallow river we waded in at the Folk Festival, building towers of flat rocks.

Disasters are not a time for poetry.  Disasters are time of survival.  Yet.   I am asking the same questions I am asking everyday.   Aside from what are you seeing, what are you feeling?  Are you scared?  Do you feel so much more fragile?   Does that wall of water that is pouring into your home, or your neighbors change everything?   Is it all just “stuff?”  Does the moment when you are woken from a deep sleep by sirens and fear alter your life’s course?

The goal, of course is to get back to normal as soon as possible.   Clean up.  Get back to work.   Start staring non-stop at our screens again, re-tweeting what we just read. (ie: “sharing” with “friends.” )   Back to that place where electricity, the internet, gas, food, peace - are all streaming and taken for granted.

One of the craziest things about being in the center of such an all encompassing storm is that the fashion shows are still going on in NY.   Football and baseball games are being played all over the country.   Photographers are taking pictures in studios and yelling at their assistants to get the light adjusted better.   People are queued up at Starbucks and Jeni’s ice cream. Macy’s is open for business. This time, subways are running and tunnels are flowing.

I can’t get out of my head, the recall elections last week in Colorado and NY where they voted out state legislators for supporting the most timid of gun control laws.   I keep dreaming of this scene at the market where they are down to the last dozen eggs and everyone is in there waving their rifles at anyone who dares reach for that last carton.

All by way of saying, thanks for the kind notes asking about our safety and sending prayers.  We are dry and safe and incredibly lucky and thankful.    We are playing baseball when the rain lightens up.  We are aware how everyday is a miracle that never can be taken for granted.  We are feeling the fragility of our lives and the nature we share our planet with.   It is a power struggle.

We still have a dozen eggs left in the fridge.