I have to-do lists that are threatening to bust loose like the boulders swollen from the rain and submerge me in computer work for hours, but I need to to write. I need to write to honor the geyser of emotion which poured from me the moment I crested the rocky outcrop on the east wall of Four Mile Canyon and my eyes rested on the home I grew up in. That home, the womb of the Soul of Me, was being pummeled by flood waters, necessarily abandoned by the family who is now raising their children there. Although I haven’t lived there since 1991, when my financially struggling parents were met at the door a week before Christmas by the Sheriff, giving us our eviction notice, to this day, “our” HOME, has been a source of strength and inspiration to me. Each time I choose to run up Boulder Canyon to enter Four Mile and scale Poorman Road to meetup with Sunshine canyon and descend back to Boulder, I am filled with an awesome energy which fuels my Dreams at 40, like it did when I was 12 years old. For the rest of my family, there seems to have been no joy in returning; the painful departure left too deep a scar. I however, knew, as painful as it was, that I could not live without this Place I call Home, so I have returned, time and time again, on runs alone or with friends, to Celebrate -yes celebrate- the amazing gift I was given, to live there.
For nearly three days now, I have been drawn out, into the rain and flooding streets of Boulder, wanting to FEEL the power of nature and to embrace the changes happening before my eyes; I have always been an experiential learner. Hearing stories last night at 1am as Glen and I stood on the Broadway bridge looking into Boulder Creek, of a “30 foot wall of water” roaring down from Emerson Gulch through Fourmile,” I knew that I needed to see it and feel it the day after, for myself. The resistance to having to face it was strong enough that I wasn’t totally convicted when I set out form 5th and Pearl. But as I got closer and closer, there was no turning back. The police at Eben Fine Park were turning everyone away from entering Boulder Canyon. So I went to settler’s Park and scaled red rocks to the pass, where the Anemone Trail begins. I really had no idea where it led, but it went the direction I wanted to go and I had a hunch. I was on an adventure, away from my phone, my computer and any “pings” or “pokes” from any electronic device. I could not have been more peaceful and excited. I followed the candy cane shaped “pipelines” until they stopped appearing and I saw a sign which read: “end of Boulder County open space.” I kept going and descended until I could see the frothy river of Chocolate milk raging past the second bridge on the canyon trail. I thought about using the bridge, but chose to climb back up the canyon side and get to a dirt road I knew was there. When I hit the dirt road, my adrenaline carried me quickly down to fourmile, where the creek which usually measures 5-6 feet wide, had turned into a gushing force twenty times that. Peering through the trees, I could see that our friend Mike’s house was still there; in fact, it was fairly clear of the water. Looking up-canyon and beginning to walk on the contour that way, my mouth gaped open: the Boulder Mountain Lodge property was completely submerged under a river that was racing past trees which usually stood well clear of the “edge,” even after a “heavy” rainstorm.
I began running, the compass of every cell of my body pointed towards Home. I ran, infused with the strength of that rushing water, the smell of churned-up earth permeating my skin and even my breath. The smell of pine sap from crushed up trees elevated my thoughts, inviting memories of the peaceful, warm summer afternoons I spent as a child, playing in the creek with my sisters,neighbor Tammy and our dog Piffy (short for Epiphany, a name my Mother gave him). As a child, fourmile creek was a place of magic and wonder: each rock had a name, from “whale rock,” to the USA rock, because each of these were shaped like their namesakes. The water rushing down the middle of the road, filling my shoes and chilling my feet reminded me of those days in the creek. Then, it was to stay cool and be able to move fast if my sisters were chasing me, or I was chasing a kickball or softball that had gone wild during a fierce match of 2 -on 2 in the yard. But it was all part of our world, and it was safe and we knew every nook and cranny like the backs of our hands. Today, as I ran against the force of the water, I felt so small and my long run to see the results of Mother Nature’s power, made me bow down to her in reverence, and with complete surrender. I found my old neighbor Vicky on the road with her two dogs. She is ten years older than I and was my role model of a strong, graceful woman-athlete, growing up. I would see her flying up and down the canyon and when I entered Boulder High, her name was on the top 10 all time best performers board in the PIT. She now has two children in their teens. I just turned 40 and and just got engaged., no children (yet). Time flies, like that water.
Vicky told me that I may need to climb the canyon side because the water was rushing in the road. I went as far as I could safely go and then started climbing. I thought I was alone when I bumped into two search and rescue personnel who offered me water and told me that they are making sure there are no more people in the canyon, as there will be no way to get in or out for two days. I told them I was just going to see my old family home. They said: “you don’t want to.”
I knew then, that I wanted to. In an odd way, it was like the early years after losing our house to the bank, when I mourned the loss of it so deeply and to do that, I had to go back to the Source of the exquisite joy and excrutiating pain and hold those two poles. Carl Jung said that consciousness if the “resolution of opposites…”
I sat, feeling the release from my tears, not really knowing yet why I was crying, watching the water race to lower ground and listening to it’s sound fill the spaces of the canyon. Seeing the transformation of the landscape, every inch of which held meaning for me, made me realize how precious the substance of our felt experience – our memories -is. I cried out of a short lived fear that somehow the changing of the landscape would erase my memories, but more so, I cried in honor of the sacred Place we call home. This place – fourmile canyon, nurtured my Dreams and invited me, every day, to tie up my running shoes and head UP. Each and every time I went running, I Ascended towards the heavens; rounding the hairpin turns, some of which offer a view of the entire canyon, I believed I was on top of the world. This place I call Home, elevated my thoughts to those fit for a Champion; I could not have done it without Her.
The Douglass fir in the front yard, which I remember discovering one day with my dad as worked in the yard and which he nursed when it was a sapling and tended to in winter, brushing the heavy snow from it’s limbs, proudly stood 20 feet tall today, giving the water something to swirl about. I wondered if the rock walls he steadily built over the years passed the test of this flood, and the peony bush and yellow roses which my mother planted, decades ago. It truly would be a miracle if the flower bushes survived. Rocks and Flowers: these are the legacies Mom and Dad left my two sisters and me. We are so Lucky.
I took the long route back to Boulder, climbing through the forest to poorman road, my breeding ground as a n aspiring distance runner. On my journey, I encountered a beautiful male Mule deer and a friend who survived the Four mile fire two years ago. I immediately asked him how his place is and he immediately answered in the affirmative: “GREAT!” I thought I could sense the relief – almost giddiness – in him, perhapas that he had weathered another storm. Seeing him was affirmation that there is no need to fear losing the sanctity of the inner landscape, even if the outer one morphs. What a beautiful, literal example of Impermanence.
Although I open myself to understanding on ever greater and deeper levels, the concept of Impermanence, as witnessed in the awesome flood of 2013 in Boulder and the morphing of the place I call Home, somehow witnessing all that change today, brought me closer to the Strength which is Me. And how lucky I am, that this strength was born out of an intimate connection to Place. Love: Four Mile Canyon.