Aftermath: Lessons from the Great Colorado Flood

I have just returned from and epic trip to Boulder, Colorado where I experienced the aftermath of the great floods there in a unique way. First I dropped off food and clothing for my family members who lost their home and escaped with nothing. Then I made my way to the StarHouse, a beautiful earth-based temple in the foothills above the city, where we walked the saturated land, prayed, and created ceremony for the earth and her denizens affected by the floods. The following day I was ordained in a sweet, blissful and powerful ceremony in which I renewed my vows to serve the Earth (Gaia Sophia). I slept under a brilliant full moon that night.

The next day I descended into Boulder to attend classes I am taking for Wilderness Therapy Guiding. The city felt fully cleansed physically. (18″ of rain in a matter of days will do that!) And it was humming at a very palpable level. Emotions ran high, wild and varied, from grief, loss, anger, and guilt to hopelessness, solidarity and hopefulness. Our classes, usually held outside up in the mountains were relocated to a little town called Niwot on the plains northeast of Boulder. There, the burbling Left Hand Creek had transformed into a raging, frothy, mud-filled torrential river. Huge cottonwood trees filled the current, torn from the banks along the river’s new course that began high in the mountains to the west. Along the way the trees and other debris dammed up bridges and culverts pushing the muddy water up over the banks and into hundreds of homes, yards, fields, and ranches.

Standing by Left Hand Creek (now river), I considered the adage, “A Force of Nature.” There it was right in front of me, carving new landscapes every second. From the human lens, it was clearly a disaster. But from the lens of Nature, it simply was doing what it does. There was no malevolence, no intention to harm; the water had simply done what it was destined to do – run downhill – and had done it with a power that can only be found in the natural world. I felt humbled and small. I could share the grief and loss of the traumatized people around me as they stacked piece after piece of their lives onto great piles of mud-soaked debris. Yet, as a witness of the cleansing, carving, releasing power of water, I felt a somber knowing of the awesome force the natural world has and the humbling lessons it provides us.

I leaned against a giant cottonwood tree, formerly a central element of someone’s back yard but now at the very edge of the new riverbank. As I connected with this majestic tree my heart suddenly began to race. “What was that?” I wondered. Then I realized that it was the tree itself, traumatized in its own way by the disruption of its world. This giant, rooted being was actually trembling and I could feel it in my body. Once again, my deepest beliefs were reaffirmed: that the earth is a living being and we are all connected to Her and to each other. We are not separate; our destinies are intertwined. When humans let go of the arrogant belief that we can dominate Nature and begin to intentionally live in right relationship with her, with respect and balance, amazing possibilities we can’t even imagine will open to us. For me, this was the lesson of the Great Colorado Flood of 2013.

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