Yes there’s lots of devastation here in Colorado—homes lost, businesses flooded, families displaced; yet on the flip side, underneath our heartache and loss, there is still so much beauty.
I took a hike today for the first time on Mt. Sanitas, one of Boulder’s most popular trails. It’s been closed since the flooding and I’d been hearing stories of trail damage for days. Not sure of what I’d find, I decided to enjoy every step regardless, since trails had been closed for over 14 days and my heart needed solace after conversations of destruction, loss and wreckage.
As I stepped on to the open trail, the sky was a crystal clear blue, the sun was shining and two eagles with young ones circled above me. The trees had started to change into their golden autumn hues and I was awestruck by the beauty around me. The creek that once flowed in one direction had changed course, taking a wide girth through a newly formed valley.
My mouth hung open wide as I realized the force and power required to re-landscape mountain land. Giant boulders had fallen down the mountain side and mud slides had re-patterned the trails. Here in Colorado entire rivers have crushed roadways and roads now being rebuilt must yield to the river’s new location. Mother nature had decided to spread her wings and change direction here in Colorado and the rest of us have followed in her foot steps.
What I’ve witnessed here is that everyone is changing directions.
Many here in Colorado are forced to frequent new grocery stores, drive different routes to work, stop in coffee shops found in unfamiliar neighborhoods and live in new locations around town. Neighbors that never interacted, have come together in the middle of the street to check up on one another, homes are opened up to strangers in need, and offers of foster homes for pets, horses, chickens, even bees are common on Facebook.
The quiet woman living down the street solo has been a loner. She’s walked past my home every morning and evening for the past 12 years on her way to the bus stop and I’ve often wondered about her living alone, never having visitors and never really speaking to anyone. Now every day for the last 2 weeks I’ve seen volunteers digging out her home and belongings from 2 feet of mud. She’s surrounded by people daily, and when I drive by, I see her either being hugged or standing there talking and laughing with others.
People really look one another in the eye when they pass by, and those that stop to ask “how are you?” actually linger for the answer. I’ve seen strangers hug tightly after hearing one another’s stories, and groups such as the Mud Slingers have popped up to help those in need. These modern Robin Hoods—the Mud Slingers—are a group of physically strong and mentally courageous people that await location needs each early morning, and show up in masses with shovels and picks in hand at the doors of mud caked homes.
Neighborhoods isolated due to roads collapsing, are coming together to rebuild old mountain roads once abandoned by miners so access to home can be regained. Healers, massage therapists and trauma specialists have offered free services to flood victims, even when hard hit themselves due to business decline. I witnessed a friend replacing her bed at a big chain mattress store this week, and almost fell over when this once considered, bad boy factory-made chain store in my mind, offered her deep discounts, free delivery and an armful of pillows once they heard she had lost everything in the flood.
Sounds of helicopter rescues over head have been replaced by the sounds of collective stories shared, as our town processes its trauma, now held by the compassionate listeners we’ve all become.
People have more patient with one another. I see kindness and tolerance in grocery stores, no one seems to honk in traffic anymore, and the pace of our town has slowed down. We’ve learned to appreciate the little things ~ sunlight and dry weather on cloudless days, warm showers once water heaters are replaced, and laughter during the many fund raising happy hours that seem to spring up daily all over town.
While our government has stepped in to help and its appreciated, it has been the local community that has made the biggest impact so far. These times we find ourselves in are the times that breed the stories we will one day tell to the next generation—these are the times we’ve heard our grandparents speak of—when communities come together and rebuild after loss.
We are living in those memories right now.
Colorado has exposed its true core after this flood, and I can tell you from first hand experience, that core, regardless of socioeconomic status, neighborhood or flood damage—is love.
Photo via Dieter Bruhn