Monday, October 10, 2016

Lessons from a Hurricane

Hurricane Matthew came and went in my area late last week. We spent Thursday morning filling sandbags in the rain, and driving around trying to find any store or market that still had bottled water (the city quickly turned into a ghost town for items such as bread and H2O!). Gas stations were running out of fuel, and lines to fill up tanks stretched out of lots and into roadways.
Water didn't last long at most markets
By early afternoon we went home and prepared as much as we could. We removed the loose debris from the backyard, picked up toys. We taped the windows - not to prevent them from breaking, but to at least keep the glass shards contained in the event that they did shatter. We put candles out, and made sure that our flashlights had batteries. We laid the sandbags around the door of our front porch which is prone to light flooding even during a normal storm. 
Sandbags lined up and ready to go 
At bedtime Thursday night we were anxious, but hoping to get at least some sleep before the winds started to come. Fortunately for us, the eye of the storm shifted 20 miles further east during the night, which meant that instead of the 80mph (129kmh) winds that they were expecting in our area, we ended up with 50-60mph (80-97kmp) winds - a true blessing! All day Friday we stayed indoors, watching the winds whip through the trees. Overnight a particularly strong gust had downed a large limb on our backyard maple.
A downed branch in our backyard
Around 2pm we heard transformer boxes popping, and suddenly the power was out. Wind had knocked down two utility poles on our street, and power lines were dangling so low that they almost touched the ground. Police came to block the road, but the winds were too strong for the electric company to do anything but put up detour signs and wait until the next day to assess the damage. 
One of two utility poles leans cross the road
We stopped frequenting the refrigerator in order to preserve the cold air. By evening our home was filled with lit candles, and we found the only open restaurant nearby - a Pizza Hut a couple of miles away. It was so backed up with orders (carry-out only as they couldn't send their drivers out) that as we sat waiting for our food they ended up having to refuse new customers. A nurse from the hospital across the street came in and pleaded with them to allow her to order. She had been working for two days straight and was willing to come back over an hour later to pick up her food. They kindly agreed.

The next day was beautiful: sunny, blue skies, dry air, and only a light breeze. The power was still out, and no crews were on site yet to begin to repair the damaged poles and lines. Cars would turn down our street and upon realizing that they couldn't get through, they would use our driveways to turn around. Most were respectful, but some would use our yards instead of the driveways, damaging the grass. The neighbors stood out in the street attempting to direct traffic until we were able to secure a police officer's support with getting the end of the street blocked off. I marveled at how much communication was taking place; we were chatting with neighbors we'd never before spoken with, checking in with each other, offering to harbor each other's cold food items so that they wouldn't perish. 

My husband and I decided to stroll down the street to review the damage. We didn't get far due to the debris in the street, and as I took it all in I thought, "Whatever isn't firmly rooted is swept away." It reminded me of Odin's Yule-tide Wild Ride that ultimately serves to carry away the old and outdated elements of our lives. It reminded me of the Tower.
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot
The plant debris wasn't the only thing that was blown away by the wind. The downed power lines meant no electricity and no internet, which in turn meant no TV, no air conditioning, no video games, no Netflix. It started to push people together. Not only did we speak more with our neighbors than ever before, but we started to see people sitting outside. We have often commented to ourselves over the years about how we seem to be the only residents on the block that actually sit out front from time to time. But now our neighbors were bringing out lawn chairs, and their kids were outside with hula hoops. My own kids spent hours playing board games, and picking up craft projects abandoned ages ago. 

For the first time ever since living here, I felt a semblance of community. Though the power is now back on, and people will surely return to their indoor lifestyles, it is good to have had a reminder of how satisfying each moment can feel when electronic devices fail to form the center of how we organize our time; of how rich neighborhood life can be when people connect to and care about one another.

5 comments:

  1. What a beautiful story about how a such a scary event can also bring good things. Although everybody will resume their old way of living now you know who your neighbors are and that you can count on them in times of need
    I am so happy you ar all well
    Hugs

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    1. Yes! Mother nature made us forge these connections ;) And it really felt like it did when I was a kid and we didn't have all of these extra devices to get lost in. Neighborhood kids actually played together, even if they didn't go to school together. It's nice to recall that, and to contrast it with what seems to be the norm today! Thanks, we are well indeed. Some cleanup to do, but all happy and healthy <3

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  2. love these lessons, happy you are all safe xx

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