By September, our mountain creeks are usually quiet and lazy. But in September 2014 rain fell relentlessly for a week over the front range, saturating the earth and swelling the creeks to a breaking point. The creeks flooded, including one near my home. It became a river of brown water carrying windows and parts of roofs, propane tanks and wheelbarrows, and grand, ancient cottonwoods. It also carried tons of silt, rocks and boulders that carved into the earth, plowing a new river bed that would, in places, be 8 feet deep and 100 yards wide.
After days of crisis control and moving out of our home, I did what always makes me feel better- I walked. I walked the edges of the flooding creek and on the sand bars that formed as water receded. When I looked past the debris and the uprooted trees, a suitcase filled with silt and a child's yellow sand bucket, I saw beautiful rocks everywhere- river rounded granite, pink pegmatite sparkling with mica, milky quartz. I wanted to paint them, but first I wanted to get my paper muddy. I soaked it in the flood water, scooped up mud and rubbed it in, then left it to dry in the sun. When I rinsed off the mud, the paper had become beautiful shades of biscuit and buff sandstone. It was mottled, wrinkled…it was perfect.
Painting the stones marked my acceptance of both the power and beauty of the flood and the destruction it caused. I was compelled to paint the flood itself- the round, sinuous shapes of this new river as it flowed across the plain. Nature is an unfolding story and I wanted to record this episode. The floodwater would continue to recede, but I hold those meanders in my memory and in my heart.