Here is our daughter and my father-in-law sitting beside Boulder Creek (CO) in August 2000. I don’t know why they are looking upstream, but my hunch is that the steady flow of water was carrying smiling, screaming, laughing, frightened, and exhilarated inner-tubers down the creek. Maybe they were noticing birds and insects as they skimmed the surface to scoop up sips of water. Trout likely swam in and out of submerged rocks past them on their journey. Even though the city was just a block away, with its traffic and modern ways, everyone near the creek, including trees and shrubs, were plugged into the energy and life of this magical oasis.
This day in August must have been a hot one for us to migrate to the water’s edge for relief in the cold mountain runoff. I love the stories that water tells. The water in this creek has traveled 30 some miles, rising along the Continental Divide to carve canyons and feed systems along the way, then through the city of Boulder, after which it eventually joins St. Vrain Creek then flows into the Platte River and ultimately mixes with the mighty Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. I can still feel the icy water on my feet and hear the creek’s summer song. I also feel deep gratitude that our lives brought us together to share this moment in a natural space, one of many, with three generations side-by-side. It’s been four months since my father-in-law moved beyond his earthly body. He was a kind and joyous soul who made countless friends along the way. As long as I knew him, he enjoyed the outdoors, usually carving beautiful turns on skis or exploring rolling hills on his bicycle. His love of drawing allowed him to slow down and sketch the world as he saw it, which often meant he painted colorful animals and insects. In the end, which was surely another beginning, all of us, except our daughter, who was out of the country and not able to return in time, were at his bedside holding his hand and present for his last breath and heartbeat. When I opened up the photo album this morning for inspiration for this essay, it was this photograph that called to me. I like to think that at this moment, nearly 23-years-ago, Grandpa Jim and the Creek passed on to Alexandra, the profound teaching that they would forever be connected in colorful wild oases.
Grief is not an event - a period of mourning - but an ongoing conversation that accompanies us throughout our life. The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller