A Letter to a Creek

Dear Purgatory:

The first word that came to mind as I stood atop the Wonder World Bridge that spans over you, was “Prehistoric”. Never have I seen such a dramatic change in scenery in one location. In only a matter of hours, a wide, curving swatch of dry, rocky terrain of indigenous hill country vegetation had quickly become a raging pathway of your unrelenting water. This was the spillway extending from the dam that you poured into. Your incredible volume of seething water gave the impression that the rapids of the Rio Grande had been transplanted into the hill country. Watching you rush beneath the bridge, splashing hard and high against the oaks, I couldn’t help but confirm the truth that not only are oak trees very strong, but, like you, they too are unrelenting, refusing to give up their footing in the earth. Purgatory Creek, you became a river. To witness you through sight, smell, and sound, I had no choice but to acknowledge your primal beauty. You meant no harm, yet were uncontrollably destructive. Your power was newborn and full of innocence, yet the sheer scope of your size made one feel that you had been flowing for centuries.

Then the question arose: Just where were you headed?

And right there is when my shift of perception occurred. I turned my back on your continuous, unending deluge, and looked out to the town of San Marcos. I noticed the emergency vehicles passing by on the bridge. I heard sirens coming from all four corners. I saw that the traffic on the bridge was ten times that of the normal flow, as it became a major artery for people trying to get back home. So many streets had been barricaded due to your high waters. On one side of the bridge people stood speechless, because you were larger than they could ever have imagined. Beyond the other side of the bridge a cop stood in the rain, directing traffic. A woman, on her front porch, nervously watched the water rise, inching up the porch steps. Somewhere, a dejected man drove in his car towards his small business, fearful that his store was now taking a big muddy, wet hit from which he had no idea how to rebuild. Just when I thought the Memorial Day flood was all Mother Nature was going to offer us, you raged into town from all directions, confirming her high degree of unpredictability. The Blanco and San Marcos rivers, and you and Sink creek offered us more than we would ever ask for.

We have now had four “250-year” floods within the past 17 years. The last two occurred this year, five months apart. Looks like someone needs to reevaluate just what category these floods really are. However, name them as we will, our planet simply has a mind of its own, and when it shows agitation, well, we are often the ones to experience its release.

Purgatory, you roared into our town and let your presence be heard. But, by definition of your name, after you receded, we immediately began the process of “cleansing”. We mopped up your trail in living room floors. We swept up the mess you left behind in our garages. We’ll patch up the asphalt chunks that you left strewn about. The caliche you chewed up from our roads and trails, we’ll tend to those as well. The fences you pushed over will be erected and cleaned of debris. In fact, everything you touched and played havoc with, we will find a way to repair or rebuild.

It may take a while to fully clean up, but, remember this Purgatory, we are a community of very resilient people.

Until next time…

Ros Hill

Copyright Ros Hill 2015


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