An historical archive of the year of the great flood.

Jamestown Flood Journal: Oak Chezar, Novemeber ’13 – January ’14

Nov. 9th, 2013

The numbers roll easy: a hundred years plus one day after the last 100 year flood hit historical levels in this town, the Thousand Year Flood hit us. 4 rivers formed and ran, one with the power of the Colorado River, through Jamestown, on the 5th day of torrential rain, 16 inches in one day in a region that swallows just 14 inches a year, and tore us apart into 4 islands. Numbers stupify, data shuts down my mind. Stories enliven.
Feed me images!

I am a woman of black and white judgements, a fundamentalist artist and activist, a radical feminist, an outsider, an outlaw; I measure the blade of my outcast shadow against every landscape. I’ve based so much of my journey on oppositional reactions, on edges, on knifeblades; my compass spins all critiques to true north. There’s too much room out here, i get lost. My trapeze swings far into extreme territories of heart and tensions of mind. In my child’s mind, i am sure no one will ever get me, not trapped, but understood. But this crisis, 8 weeks old today, has taken me down a rabbit hole of smashed certainties, where everyone’s face is a mirror beaming me back into peace, into smile, into balance.
I allign.

The helicopters that land and take off, rescuing us, over and over, are army attack helicopters, forged for war. They have a peacetime purpose, turns out; who knew? The folks who take us when we land, tender and vulnerable evacuees in a strange land, are the cops, who i’ve hated on sight my whole life. My dad hated cops and he wasn’t a revolutionary or a radical feminist. They do not seek to conquer us; there is no power and control on the bad side of the wheel. Next, the Feds, who’s government lackies (see my dad again) were patient and kind , surrendered up checks and offers of assistance, FEMA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army piled gifts at our still wet feet. The the big machines and their men, big stinky roaring heretofore terrible men and machines dug out the rubble, built roads and bridges, sculpted gentle slopes from harsh cliffedges, saving us, saving us. On the second week, the Texas Baptist Men arrived in force, set up a presence in our town, and totally blew my little mind. Not all Baptists carry “god hates fags” signs at funerals, not all are racist and misogynistic and ignorant.

The Texas Baptist Men, and their womenfolk, came into my life and my town as transformers. They transformed the landscape of Rubbleville, and they lifted us towards a light of hope, and held us cocooned in their vision of gods’ love. They patted me, favoured me, spoiled me and teased me; in general they totally Big Brothered me, and i loved it.

Contradictions. I struggle. I stop struggling and start celebrating. This is the gift, Paradox, complicate my beloved rigidity, the walls falling echo always, my head buzzes always now with the clang of fortresses falling; the hoof ringing correction coming and shaking me and kissing me, and raising me up in my own estimation. A connection, a glow in my hearth, fresh eyes in my heart fill me up and the stories i’ve told lie down, gentled as bedding for gardens where seeds warm winter with their tiny waiting, their fresh breath, defying death, correcting complicated contradictions.
I am drawn closer to the center now, the edges that crumbled and fell in the roar of the rivers reverberate, and I begin to learn to soften, to relax.

The Baptists are gone now; the only yellow hat to be seen is nailed to the wall in the office, an artifact of a past time, the symbol of a new story. And it’s hard not to feel that I am experiencing some tense in addition to the present. These trees, older than any person, fill my forest view. This Milky Way, these ancient stars, this glint breeze cloud, this conversation, this conversion, this land, altering beneath our breath, going to seed all around us. Fallowing. This orbiting, this gravity, sinking all this sand into every crevice. The Baptists, amazed at the tonnage of sand- where’d all this sand come from? It’s ancient Rocky Mountains. John’s story last night, and his dog, Ranger, who i wake up imagining.

What we have lost, what wants to become. Swim in the flux, past piles of filed rubbish-that was our habits, that was our meaning, our purpose and our data once, fluctuate like seasons, the wheel of light turning, sit in this angle of sun, this morning with this tea and these dogs and feel it, beating metronomes of shussshing; it’s the Big Secret, the mystery of participation, not lost, this door to the cosmos has been waiting, always, framed by the residue of dreams, swinging on improbably hinges, step through friend. Leave the gaping emptiness behind and find treasure here and now, extending transcendent ripples as i toss my stone into still waters and change everything, again.

Shoved and stripped and suffering landscape; one perfect dandelion flower peeks smiling through it all. Paradox: hold me tight. surround me in soft blankets as you stab me in the mind, over and over. Knead me like this. Soften. Soften. Forgive. Surrender. mind full of slashes spills over to relax.

To the south the land is pristine, unchanged. Skyfull of illusion. Clouds sing past, ribbons veiling the tops of pines like cloud cheese through a sky grater. I hike the dogs.
My feet find their imprints on this trail, engraved and reconnected to this perfect peace, eternal and unchanged. The forest and I part and participate, we shine, we blow in winds, we call and recall, our recent past rots sweetly on our ground, we fall, we stand, we are indestructible remembrance, maps to other realms we hold in our molecules, our cells, for this..for this.

Golden meadow opens wings in all directions, a body of light and seedheads glittering, a rough silk pocket, a promise, a prairie, witness to geologic expeditions and my mind, braiding beneath the big black crows. Gleaming hinges, open and close and mountains lean in to hold me as i rehearse wings and tune my throat for the next iteration of me.
Ten thousand tress watch me here, pin me as me down, now. Fill me with the One Reality. Bang me in the heart, stroke my eyes, close the circle of my mind like a nest. All the wild exhausted passion filled birds, resting.

Sit at the saddle overlooking Nugget Hill. This is the theater, the stage where i climb the curtains on cat claws. Here bevelled edges of evergreens everywhere connecting, union from separation: devour me! Make me YOU. Take all my I’s away; leave my eyes singing wonder and the willingness in my heart. Make me calm as you are, soothe me with a joining.

Oyster sky, dying season, late November. This is the dark and the cold lonely rest. Nest here with a thousand unnamed birds. With life underground, all warm breath and big plans for springtime. Wait, develop, ride this big black bird through the tunnel of tragic post-disaster recoup. This town’s a hospital with a great view, or a hospice in the biggest view. Take it. Grateful.

Wild turkey tracks are arrows in the snow the size of my hand, pointing their progression up the hill. Giant hiking birds. Miracles everywhere, hidden and gobbling. Stay safe y’all…2 days till thanksgiving….shhhh.
We whisper together through nights beneath lights of long gone stars that shine this sky and the world bows down and the sun leaks through to touch hearts trustingly wandering space. Ponderosas wiggle like puppies, so glad to see me and this now. Shadows pass, kissing the shine to flicker to cool to burst again into light.

High forest trail, the quiet is a silken roar, a relative rumble in my skull. The sky is cobalt, the trees iron-silvered by sun. Goddess cracks the egg to this freshened morning snow-globe, this sparkle silent tableau, a nursery of trees, a grave resurrecting eternally. Old sentinels, pine and fir, friends greet me every snowy step of the way, calumping down the trail i make steam.

Above the destruction, just a slight beep-beep charge to the molecules of air, disturbed and reassured by the big machines below. Season in flux, seeds crushed, flown, leaves gone, heat still emanates from that ancient sun, slides up the angles of repose.
I built my house on purple rocks, on a nest, deliberate as a crow. What i know about flow is a flood in September. And forests thick with cloud lust and bluejays. Woodpecker hammers the same dead crucifix of phone pole she hammered yesterday. Will rattle skull for food.

I walk the park loop. All so cleaned up and all so exposed. Enormous tower of trees stacked in smashed memory of roots and birds nests and squirrel runs, earth mover and excavator neatly piled as possible and dwarfing the tennis court’s 20 foot chain link. Packed with stones and swabbed in sand coats; giant puzzle of pick up sticks, broken bones, splintered, shredded, jagged jengas against the oceanic sky. Patterns of breaking and beginning again, the stardust of our bodies and the symmetry of autumn; austerity calling. I walk time in it’s skeleton, learning that we are unlimited by our bodies. Fold me into the world batter like that. The last roaring of the huge machines spins a circle round us, furious and kind. Dusk coming now.

Heated leather seat beneath me, sun warming the world around me, luxury humming my name. Hurtling over and past Rubbleville, bound for Babylon again.Great beat on the radio rockin’ me round the high curves past Ward, and the odalisque pyramids of 14-ers rockin’ back. This bronze meadow is a soufflĂ© whooshed and settling in full views of the Divide. I follow a semi, ahead of a semi. Trucks carry giant pipes, great culverts, porta pottys, giant trucks haul other giant trucks, hauling giant shovels. Peak to Peak is an industrial corridor now, it’s I25 in the sky.

Ned reservoir. The lake, chained to banks, breaks, blasting surf and splinters against the dam of today, again. I pull over. The shine heaving heavy water leans hard, leaps at the dam like a dog at the door, driven.
I’m driving. Leave the shimmy restless body, the thinnest mist that jumps the barricade, making a wish on freedom. Rocks that watch, growing nostalgic and soft for the wild wishing, the splish splashing of water under the hammered silver surface. A thousand textures grab me, hold me here. Simple as a seed. Simple as a mountain. Cars pass race and scheme and steer. Ha! Water. Water! Water!

Hearty cottonwoods light the way down, lantern me all the way to Boulder, to Longmont, leave the aspens behind, naked in the winds of 9,000 feet, remembering gold. My blood is thin and wild like me, like this torrential hundred year, million year flood, it hurtles through my body at waterfall rates. It races throughout the unexploded chambers of my heart, tidal in the arteries, pressure through the veins, hauling stones and trees, scrubbing me out. Volatile and powerful, shrinking and expanding, i learn how to be the right size for my world, also not standard, also in flux. Me. My world. And all the bridges rushed and collapsing in flood. Me. My flood.

Down the goat trail, first time in daylight. Need new words for rubble. Trees felled in the creek, car-sized rocks piled, I have to stop by the lovely meadow at Madam Curie’s and cry and cry for what was and what’s left. Asphalt like pastry smashed. Every bridge for 5 miles buckled, unbuckled. Some recognizable artifacts: Mattresses, dresser, crib, crushed car. Another. I park at the confluence, turn off the engine, open the window to the rage of wind, listen to waters echo off rock. Evidence neatly filed everywhere you look. Piles of cables. Plywood. Gates. Propane tanks. Hot tubs. Everything sorted. Imagine the physical world through the mechanic vision of a track hoe, wed to a dumpster.

Nighttime. My friends down below in cities don’t know about starlight on broken stone, the final forest shading a cradle. River breath. Star pulse. Moon coming back, over and over in this canyon, gouged by moonlight, enrubbled in starlight, go slow. The lips of road are harsh, you gotta crawl in 1st gear, roll in neutral, ease over and through. The scoured skirts of James Creek, one lane goat trail in the wolf hour of post-dusk. Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of the fire. Eliot’s Pitch, a sharp turn to the SW and the river can’t bear to take it at full volume. And so the old miners would stand up here in flood time, pitching sticks of dynamite into the canyon to bust up the logjams. Really?

At the Town Hall, in the cracks between philanthropic liasoning and resource coordination, I tell strangers that there’s a moratorium on demolition permits right now. Rebecca says “I had a fine moment this morning when one of the team leaders asked what they’d be doing in Jamestown. Well, it’s JAMESTOWN, haven’t you heard?” ‘Tell em to google it…shit!…look at it: they’ll be doing THIS.”

I walk up Ward Street, opened like a wound, parted like a stone shattered sea, stunned, but look! Here’s where the river wants to be, so we move. The earth is bruised with giant tire treads, culverts stacked and ready, and the river is now shockingly on the other side! Still fearlessly rushing. Still supercharged for November, pooling deep, running loud velvet shusshes, piled with big rocks, sizzle rubble organized, civilized, order satisfied, i walk on. Past trash i can reach, and trash i can’t. Plastic everywhere now, laughing at our recycling efforts, fridge doors, and big screen tv’s, sand stung Samsungs, and cars, and toilets, bike helmet and horizontal whole walls of houses, the wind seducing all materials down the trail of dust. A bunch of failed sandbags – their drama shall not be forgotten!- beside a huge fallen fir that took out Karen’s house. The creek keeps singing, writing her own number for Jamestown Flood: The Musical.

Voice of the wind in morning says hush. Mountains slow becoming dust and this mountain town crouching, beaten down, wanting more life, giving so much love, taking so much rescue, reminding me of me.

Late November

Disaster wallpaper wraps round our eyes daily, the majesty of Porphrey’s Dike, the soft roar of the river. At the park , dead trees that were our friends, our lungs, our companions on the road are chunked, sticking ripping silent mass of witness and evidence both. I go down to the river. I am drawn to stand atop snow-covered rubble, watching asphalt hang a pouting lip over, rippled, ripped up and edged in orange cones. Trees down here, willow, stand creekside, marked for always by the flood. Big bites gnashed out, twice as tall as i am standing, arms torn off, witness and evidence both.

i sit down, pull off my shoes to shake the dirt and stones out, consider the untold tales of mute lumber. This pile of ex-home: the mud covered 2×4’s, a nail stabbed section of roof, some tongue in groove still groovin’, plywood circles, shingles, pink shreds of fiberglass, donkey dick, stovepipe, and a tire mired in mud. The parts greater than the whole, jenga pieces everywhere, undo the process of creation and here is what’s left.

In the forest next morning, living rtrees are garlanded by sunshine and wind tunes. i don’t tell them about the tower of trees in the park below. Above and below, separate like Jamestown’s community. Divided but connected still. Witness and evidence, again.

December

Temperature passes snow on the way down. Huddle under a big ponderosa and watch the falling. Down at the riverside, so many different entities are moving energy in so many different formats: snow blown swirls vaporous veils. Asphalt edge flaps plastic tatters, waving. River slides noisy under silent bubbles of ice. Dogs gnaw dirt under the snow. Splash. Plop. Rush. Rustle. Gulp. Repeat.

On the goat trail, there’s a whole new road to get used to, everyday. New drop offs, new cone placements, new big bumps. Passing neighbors and workers slamming their brave and suffering cars over potholed dust snake. This is the new normal. There goes a Lexus. Please.

The road is terrible tonight, shredded to the 10th power. I am a stone on the side of the road in winter, sprayed with incomprehensible number system, in hot pink paint. i direct the giant vehicles and men in this emptied canyon under a lowering sky.

January

10 a.m. A new road bed above the river rises. This morning i drive down, semi-legally i reckon, following a big work truck, with the fire chief behind me. When we stopped, i could watch the giant trucks line up to side-tip tons of stone over the edge of the road; watch a backhoe shove the rock into place; watch the heavy steel roller machine drive over it all, back and forth, packing the future gateway down. I sit now, 10 p.m., stoned, car turned off and pulled way over, rocking in these outrageous moaning winds that suffer the trees, buffet the air, over the fur of the sleeping bears. Wind insinuating into every crack of window and forest and cave.

And it does no good to count the number of drops and shreds in the canyon road’s surface, cos these change daily. I count them anyway. This canyon road is alive. The flood was a living thing and the recovery is a living thing. I depend for my life on this road, he is a steady flowing solid beside the river. Huge golden trucks, tanks, dozers and hoes are constructing him back again, bashing him loose, prying trees and boulders from his shoulders, shredding these and growing out and up, up, the plank of road rising like a window washer’s scaffolding outside a skyscraper in my headlights under this full moon, the roadbed rises, panting my breath for the effort of his resurrection. This is an ode to the machines: the roar, the extraction of the machines, the diesel, the heaving tread, the early morning bang and stink, the holy miracle of something like forgiveness, mercy and power and humility all ground up like huge chunks of asphalt, a composite conglomeration used, re-used, all in the name of continuing.

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