Our street. The car that got stuck there is a hummer.Water almost made it to the window.
I am still getting my head wrapped around how drastically life can change in an instant. Three weeks ago today severe storms swept through the Chicagoland area and many areas flooded. Unfortunately our house was one of the unlucky ones that got hit hard. I'm not talking oh, the basement flooded with an inch of water. That is distressing, of course, especially when the water gets mixed in with sewer water. ick. But we're talking 2-3 feet of water filling my studio and the garage. We also had 6 inches of water in the house. We were living in a ranch house, meaning it's one level. So when we say we flooded, that means the house flooded. Two of our neighbors had to be evacuated from their homes by a rescue boat. A boat!! I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that.
I wasn't able to get to my studio until the third day after the storm because the water had been so high. When I finally went in there and saw the extent of the damage, my heart just sank. Three feet of water had filled my studio. And completely destroyed years of works on paper and canvas. All my journals that I've kept since I was in grade school had been submerged in water for over 24 hours. Every book and magazine I had ever been published in- turned to mush. My collections of images and paper, ruined. I would open a drawer and water would pour out.
Up until that third day, I had kept it together. Even though we were forced to leave the house and stay with my mother and father-in-law. But seeing my studio completely trashed, filling contractor bag after contractor bag with destroyed artwork and supplies, opening a crate where I had put framed family photos in and seeing my baby girl's framed portrait submerged in dirty water...well, I just lost it. A studio space is sacred space. It's not just a place where you work. It is who you are. It is refuge. It is where you commune with what makes you, you. Artwork and journals are personal history. It's not a piece of furniture that can be replaced. Once created, it's always holds a part of the creator in it. All gone. So grateful that the majority of my current work is in my solo show right now!
I could go on and on, but I'll spare you and myself the details of loss and sadness. I know it could have been worse. Our home was a temporary one in that we were renting after we sold our house in November while we figured out where we wanted to settle permanently. But it was still our home. And it was flooded. When water starts to fill up your home, you scramble and start moving all you can to higher ground. But then there comes a point, especially in a severe flood like this one, where there's nothing you can do and you just watch the water rise. And rise. It's 3 weeks out today since the last time we were able to sleep in our home. I feel for my children to have to deal with this. They are resilient though and life goes on, is something they have learned. That our home is us. We take it wherever we go.
8 years ago, I had written an entry on "loss" in ball point pen. The next page, dated with a stamp was written with non water-proof pen and 8 years later was washed away in a flood.
I have learned many lessons, and some I am still in the process of learning. But one thing that I will never forget, is the kindness and generosity of people who see someone suffering and reach out to help. You really find out about people's character in times of crisis. That was something that I learned early on as a little girl and have relearned many times over in my life. But this time it was in a more positive light. I learned that the artist community that I find myself in is filled with people who see something like this happen and say, "how can I help?"
Shawna Moore in particular reached out and offered her assistance in advocating for me. Because of her, several suppliers have reached out to me to help me recover from the losses in my studio. I will never know how to express my gratitude and appreciation to her and to them. R&F Encaustics, Dick Blick, Wax Works West, Paula Roland, Giselle Gautreau, Linda Robertson Womack are just a few of the many who I can thank here for sending me packages in the mail and offers to help. But the artist community on Facebook...and the friends and family I have there who have sent me and my family messages, I can't even begin to express my gratitude either. If you've been through crisis, which we all go through at some point in our lives, we all know how far a kind word goes. It's like a lifeline thrown down to someone in a pit. While we may not see who is on the other end of the rope, the fact that there are people there hoping and praying for you and your family is enough to keep pulling yourself up that rope.
Strange things that happen in a 15 year old journal when it's submerged in 2 feet of water for over 24 hours.
It took me 3 weeks to write this. Partly because I have been so exhausted by the end of the day everyday that I just couldn't. I also am not home with access to my computer. And also because how does one put words to an event like this. You just can't.
After my husband and I had thrown all that had been destroyed on our curb and the loss that we had just experienced was now evidenced by anyone passing by, my neighbor from across the way just came over to me, didn't say a word, and just hugged me. And held me there for a few moments. Sometimes words just don't cut it.
Still processing it all. Still going through so many unknowns right now. But taking each day as it comes. It will be ok. We were able to save almost all of our furniture and things inside the house despite the 6 inches in there. So that's a good thing. And life goes on. And my load is lighter. I have so many thoughts about so much of what happened. I know it will manifest in my art when I am able to get back to creating. Not sure when that will be. But I will find a way.
a water soaked image of me and my son when he was 2 years old