We don’t control this earth. Not now. Likely not ever. Hurricane Sandy was an incredibly huge reminder, in case we needed one.
Monday was strange here in eastern Massachusetts. We lost power around 2:30 PM, much earlier than my husband and I expected it. In an effort to not get lost in the repeated hype that is our culture–hype over anything that can be hyped–my husband and I were not as proactive in preparing for this storm as we could have been. We took care of some things, but not others. The phones and iPad were not completely charged, but the laundry was almost dry. I wasn’t set up with batteries for a radio and flashlight, but I had candles and both our cars had gas, so could be called into commission to charge the phones and ipad, and possibly drive for ice if need be…because I had drawn water, and I was prepared with fresh food to feed our dog, but not with ice-filled coolers to keep our refrigerated food from spoiling.
After working over the weekend, my husband and I were both focused on cleaning that day, our drawers and closet of warm-weather clothes. The wind and rain were kicking up outside, and I was still in my sweats, so my husband took the dog for her last walk of the day, and I took a hot shower, not knowing when I’d get one again. I made it short, so he could have a shower when he got back if he was cold and wet. I proceeded to dress myself in long underwear, sweats, a sweater, a sweatshirt, two hats, and my fur-lined boots. As easily as I get cold, I wasn’t going to under-prepare in this department! I will not forget the time I went white-water rafting in the Colorado River. August, but the water was in the 40s, so we were all equipped with “wet” boots that were supposed to function like a wet suit for your feet. That would require your feet to have some heat in them to start, which mine often don’t (ditto, my body), so those “wet” boots functioned more like “ice” boots for me, the entire painful trip. I was going to keep my body heat in at all costs.
With a big glass-enclosed candle set up on the little dresser in our narrow walk-in closet, I set to work. My husband came home, peeled off his wet outer layer, reclined for a moment, and promptly went to sleep–for about 2 1/2 hours. That’s one way to handle a disaster, a pretty good way at this point as there was nothing we could do. I promptly began to sweat–it was only in the 60s outside–so removed the hats, and began to peel off layers.
As twilight set in, and the wind blew rain and leaves sideways, our dog was starting to talk about dinner. She was two plus hours off her walk and it was time to eat. I wanted to keep doing things until the last bit of daylight was gone, and I when I opened the refrigerator a few inches to slip some food out, I wanted to slip out dinner for everybody. Setting up candles around the kitchen, I continued with paperwork and bills until dark–when I noticed that the houses right through the trees behind our house had lights on. And so did our friends around the corner in our neighborhood my husband soon discovered. Our appreciation at the minor inconveniences we were experiencing from this historic storm now became tinged with annoyance, knowing people a stone’s throw away were enjoying the normal comforts of their home while we sneaked food out of the refrigerator and tried to see what we were doing. We ate in shifts, me lighting the gas stove with a match. I washed the dishes by hand, and headed upstairs with a couple candles to read in bed. My husband came up a couple hours later–he had charged his phone and iPad and was talking with people and browsing the net.
Our power came on around 2:30 AM, full force. My husband was downstairs with the dog, who had become very spooked over something, and come upstairs, where she is not allowed, to cry at our door. Surprises finally over, we woke up in the morning to not a day of rain, as predicted, but sun peeking through the clouds. Beautiful.
But between our two families, there are many homes owned in NJ, coastal NJ, and coastal Delaware. Extend our circle out to friends, and there are too many people with homes in these hard-hit northeast coastal areas to even count. The first primary video clip that hit the national news picturing beach bungalows destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Ocean Beach, NJ, gave us our first look at the the neighborhood where my husband’s parents bought a small beach bungalow over forty years ago. We can watch that video on the computer, and freeze it, and my husband can pick out the houses of long-time family friends. His father is long-passed; his 86-year-old mother’s bungalow is just out-side the scope of the video. That’s all we had. Then other pictures and news started to trickle in, showing scenes like the fire just north of his sister’s house. The flooding in Hoboken where our niece lives. A telephone pole had fallen across my mother-in-law’s driveway at her home in central NJ; she has no services, but a clear view of the large branch that smashed through her neighbor’s window. More devastating news and more devastating pictures are trickling in, but we still have far from a complete picture. And every time I think of the possibilities of what the amassed damage may be at the end, just to people I know personally, or watch new clips of another ransacked coastal area, I tense up–my neck, my shoulders, my gut. How much work. How many families displaced. How much money needed to repair the damage. How many families who will not have that money. I am physically recoiling at the sense of the magnitude of this disaster, a natural reaction. Yet not a productive one. We rarely find flight from our challenges effective. In fact, flight generally leads to personal disaster. And fight, in the literal sense, doesn’t generally lead to positive results either.
Accepting whatever new challenge our modern life has floated by, or flown at, us, as peacefully and rationally as possible is the most productive response. Change is scary, and in a disaster, so, so scary. Unfortunately, as a culture, I think we are poorly prepared to handle any kind of change, minor or huge. Indeed, we are constantly conditioned to be generally petrified of what is ahead, barraged with messages on all fronts, fanning the flames of why we should so fear the future. Why do we go with this? Such fear of the future can only be based on a deep anxiety that we won’t emerge triumphant. And yet, we almost always do.
Forward is not just a campaign slogan. It is a life slogan. We cannot control this earth, nor the life we live on it. There is always a silver-lining if we aren’t recoiling too severely to connect with it. We will figure this out.