I grew up on a beautiful little creek in the Rocky Mountains. One of my earliest and many of my fondest childhood memories involve the magic of this dearly familiar yet ever-changing body of water. Many hours were spent sitting next to the water in the shade, listening to the music of it moving over the stones.
Sometimes, I’d see a tiny fish, sometimes other squiggly, swimming things that I couldn’t identify. I loved the way the sunshine would come through the trees and reflect the movement of the leaves on the water. I loved the sound it made when I’d toss small rocks into the moving water and I noticed how the stones would sink right to the bottom and lie very still even as the water moved quickly by. I loved the way they sparkled when the sun hit them.
The ground around the trees was covered in emerald greenery with thousands of purple flowers. I would pick the flowers one at a time and suck the sweet nectar from the back of them. Because it was sweet and because I sucked the nectar from them, I called them honeysuckle but I now realize they were Vinca. Then I would release the flowers into the water, one at a time, and watch them go until I couldn’t see them any more. I’d try to imagine what they were experiencing moments later, hours later, days later. I imagined they would take a very long time to make it to the open sea. This I couldn’t even imagine then. A body of water so huge, so violent, so unpredictable, yet so incredibly beautiful.
When I was fifteen, the floods came. The water started to rise and continued to rise, day after day, all through the month of May. I remember looking over the fence from my back yard and down the hill as the muddy water filled the little gully, inch by inch, rising to hide my honeysuckle hideouts.
At the end of the street, the water normally flowed smoothly through a culvert and under the road but now the water had risen above the top of the culvert leaving a deceptively calm looking pond. The water would then begin to turn, slowly at first, building up speed until a deep and menacing whirlpool would open up in the center and the whole thing would make a very loud, rumbling, flushing sound as huge amounts of water were released under the road at once. Then the water would begin to rise again, resulting in the calm pond slowly building to the violent “flush.” I could hear it from my bed at night, nearly a block away, the flush, flush, flushing of my favorite magical place….being sucked out to the sea.
When the water finally receded, all that was left was mud. So many of the trees were gone. All the emerald greenery; gone. Purple flowers; gone. Most of the big, old, familiar rocks between which I’d deposited my smaller stones; gone. Even the gradually sloping hill that led down to the creek was gone, replaced by more of a cliff drop with scraggly roots grasping out blindly for the majestic beings they’d once supported… my friends; gone.
My father passed away on July 14, 2004. I remember looking at that calendar page and noticing that July is in the middle of the year, the 14th is in the middle of the month and it was a Wednesday, the middle of the week. Flush.
My sweet Dannica passed away on November 14th, 2012. Not the middle of the year, but once again the middle of the month and a Wednesday, the middle of the week. Flush.
There have been three more fourteenths since then. Tomorrow will mark the fourth. Flush.
I’ve noticed a pattern forming in my life. It overlays the calendar like a slowly rising pond that begins to spin, slowly at first, building speed as the days pass. I feel it pulling me in and no matter how frantically I kick my feet, it’s stronger than I am. The tears begin to fall again and the horrible memories of that day come again, unbidden. The thing is, I don’t even realize what’s happening until the whirlpool opens up over the center of that square and then….. flush.
After tomorrow, there will be seven more fourteenths before the next one; the Big Flush. Then I imagine the ponds widening a bit, maybe spinning a little more gently, maybe for longer before opening up and flushing. I also imagine a few that widen to the point of being visible on radar and given a name in the style of hurricanes.
The Vinca never returned to my honeysuckle hideouts and now they are lost to me forever but I do hold tight to the memory of each beautiful flower drifting off down the stream. So after tomorrow, I will survey the damage and the destruction once more and I will do my best to remember the flowers and I will do my best to keep planting more.
Where are you, my sweet flower? All these moments later; these hours, days, now months later? Have you made it to the sea? I’ll be there soon and I’ll look for you everywhere and I’ll do my best to see you there… my Sweetness, my little honeysuckle.