I remember very vaguely various floods in my life. Recently Austin has had two floods, and since settling down here they are the one's that stand out to me the most. I took a trip this weekend to the Greenbelt and went hiking a bit by myself before meeting with a friend. The water was flowing and clear which was nice for a change. Every few feet the path was blocked by some huge tree trunk, something that had fallen in the storm of the previous week and been left there. On the base of these trees spray painted in a perfect circle around the trunk was a singular orange line, and my assumption was this is the guide for those workers who will come in and cut apart the tree opening the path up again to walkers and bikers and dogs.
If you venture from the path a little ways and walk along the creek/river bed you can find the remnants of the flash floods. The soft mud under your feet and the warped path of the wild grass, pulled down by the water rushing across. Tree's fallen and on their side, flowers up rooted rocks still coated in a thick moisture. It would have been interesting to see the impact the day of the flood, the news showed pictures of houses flooding, cars sinking, people being saved.
I recall driving home from a friends house during, being stuck on the freeway. Passing a group of cars gathered around the railings. Their eyes were scanning the water frantically. Over and over they were scanning the water as if trying to catch a glimpse of something lost, something that at any moment would pop up and recover itself. The fire department and police ignored it, they brought out their gear and rain coats, directed cars around. I remember feeling a sense of dread wondering what it is they were looking for that could have made the fall into the river, what would cause two women to sit on the side of a busy free way in the pouring rain with no umbrella or coat frantically searching. When I got home I read about the story, a man crashed and then jumped over the railing into the water. They found his body later.
When I was younger Katrina was the big flood. I didn't care much about it then, it never effected me and it was another out of sight situation. I remember briefly being without power at my home, I remember light flooding and our house was fine. I remember kids coming to our schools, the stories were always that they had lost everything or most things and had moved back to be with friends or family. In a new school with no one around them after losing everything. Thinking about it now it makes me upset, even more upset that I didn't think about it then. I heard on a radio show stories about Katrina, One woman talked about losing her house and job, all of her clothes. She came to another state and didn't have anything, people assumed she was a bum, assumed she was up to nothing good. I remember the same thoughts about those kids who came to our school, dressed badly and in long hanging shirts with ratty blue jeans. They had the same look on their eyes as the women scanning the water on the highway. Constantly looking around as if something would recover. And the rest of us were just passers by, judging image and form, making assumptions and implications based on appearance and no story. The assuming factor was that things should be beautiful that's how you know they are normal. There was something more truthful and normal about the whole story though.
And here I am along the creek/river bed taking pictures of the aftermath, trying to create something beautiful out of natural wreckage, here I am along side the highway looking on as crews dive into the waters and try to find a body, here I am drawing pictures, painting things, making stuff as houses and memories and shared times are destroyed by the water. And I have to ask myself how I can contribute to something larger. How I can do better and more meaningful work. and hopefully I get successful enough to answer that question. It's not just the success, it's the worry that art, or rather my art can never have a meaningful impact. Or rather that the meaningful impact that other people have.
My brother reports news, my other brother helps with education, my father oversees construction on homes, my mother oversees banking projects. Everything that seems to have a direct correlation with making peoples lives easier and better, and they aren't given any thanks for the jobs they do. And here I am trying to make art and churning it out in the hopes of selling something, in the hopes of changing and creating something new. And I can't help but ask for what purpose.