In times of big water, the wild gets the upper hand and I feel a deep satisfaction inside. We cannot drive our cars, cannot cross the creeks; the roads have washed away. This year is the year of big water. The rain and snow melt from Apache Creek and the runoff from Juniper Mesa and Walnut Creek converges behind our barn.
Walnut Creek comes to meet Apache Creek and creates a flow so powerful, at times, that trees are torn free and sent down the creek. The fences keeping the cattle off the two hundred fifty acres are swiped aside in one moment by trees and debris. Animals are swept away and lodged along with other random items (garden hoses, tires, buckets) high in trees. I have happened upon squirrels, a doe and a young gray fox that lost their lives in the torrents of water cleansing these waterways.
Every year, once or twice, we head out with wire, fence tools and thick gloves to repair the water gaps and any other sections of fence destroyed by winter storms.
This winter the storms just kept coming, one after another. I didn’t believe the mud would ever end. Laundry drying on racks next to the wood stove, muddy dog prints all over the house, horses with soggy, foul-smelling hooves (horse people know what I am talking about,) and wet-dog smelling wool sweaters.
The seasons, here, get names. The grasshopper spring & summer when tiny ¼ inch grasshoppers ate every green thing that we planted in the garden (getting chickens cured that;) Kiva’s broken leg and surgery year (trampoline;) the autumn we “went off gluten”; the elk summer (when elk came every night to graze and sleep in the tall grass near the house;) the rattlesnake summer, when we saw a rattlesnake every day. Kiva nearly stepped on a Northern Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossuss: pictured above) and it struck her flip-flop, missing her foot by ½ inch.
This was the winter of big water and mud.
I can still hear the creek flowing loudly. Not angry like after a monsoon flash flood, but busy and happy like a group of children free to play at whatever they like, as long as they like. I will not always hear it from where I sit on the south side of the hen house. By the end of May it will be barely a whisper, a tiny voice we can only hear if we walk down to its edge.
The creek ebbs and flows, sometimes gentle, sometimes angry, sometimes giggling, sometimes sleeping. But even during the driest years, water can be found. Tiny pools swimming with quiet, struggling life. Tiny tracks up to the edge, careful not to disturb this gift of water.