After the Hurricane
Storms used to frighten me. Years ago, when I was in high school, a neighbor’s house was struck by lightning while I was home (alone? I remember it as a time that I was home alone, but that almost never happened; there were always others at home when I was at home. Still, the way I remember it, I was home alone.) The noise was deafening, and the strike did start a fire in their house, which was directly across the street from our home. And so, for decades afterward, storms and their noise frightened me. I startled easily. I would jump nearly out of my skin, and tremble until I knew what the noise was, and that it wasn’t going to hurt me.
But in recent years, storms now attract my attention. I’ll often go out on the screened-in porch to watch a summer storm as it passes over. The lightning strikes, the thunder rolls, the temperature drops and the earth takes on a scent of new growth and wet soil. The chimneys on my neighbors’ home stand out starkly against the dark clouds, and I feel at peace. I am at home, whether alone or with Rick, and I am safe here.
We prepared for Hurricane Sandy, or Tropical Storm Sandy, or whatever she will be remembered as. She has been labeled the storm of the century; 1000 miles in width, with winds that hovered at the dividing line of 75 miles per hour, at times sustained, at other times gusting. No matter – it was time to clear the yard of summer chairs, rakes and other outdoor weather items. Winter cleaning, I call it … an outdoor activity more easily completed than spring or fall cleaning indoors could ever be. Enjoying in the fresh dry air that preceded this hurricane, we picked things up and stored them away for another summer. Later, we listened to the birds chattering in the bushes near our bird feeders. The sparrows were particularly vocal, and they seemed to be swooping in and out of the feeders in a frenzy. Perhaps they felt the dropping air pressure, and knew that the storm would soon be upon us.
We prepared indoors as well. My recent spate of clutter-clearing and fabric-sorting was set aside, and air conditioners were taken out of windows (with our son’s strength and patience while I spread towels on the floor to absorb any remaining moisture.) Storm windows were checked, and hurricane lamps were checked for ample wicks and oil, and flashlights were given new batteries. Wood scraps from the shop were brought in for kindling, and matches were found as well. All was ready for the expected loss of electricity.
I watered the plants that had been brought in a few weeks ago – geraniums from my front door step, and from my friend Mary’s. They will winter over in the greenhouse at the back of our home. Although a few panes of glass bear clear plastic packing tape, due to random bumps from falling branches over the past four decades (we estimate that it was installed in the early seventies by a previous owner,) the greenhouse has withstood hurricanes and blizzards before, and will no doubt again. Still, I do say a little prayer each time it must weather such. The statue of the Blessed Mother stands in the southeast corner, where she has a clear view of the greenhouse and the barn beside the house, and I trust its safety, and ours, to her.
We settled in to watch televised news reports of Sandy’s progress up the Atlantic coast. It was a welcome respite from the endless onslaught of political campaign commercials that have monopolized most air time in the past month. We were reminded of the hurricanes in recent years that caused such devastation in the Gulf of Mexico. While we watched, I offered silent prayers for those experiencing the worst of the weather, and the losses it would cause.
When we did lose our electricity, it was only for an hour. But not knowing that, we lit the hurricane lamps, and I started a fire in the fireplace. We settled down for the evening, listening to the wind howl and wondering where the lines went down in town. We saw the bucket trucks travel slowly up and down the dark street, examining poles with their flood lights. We heard the communications on Rick’s battery-powered scanner and knew that our local electric department was in touch with the larger power companies, and as he listened, I drifted off to sleep next to the fireplace.
An hour later, the lights came back on, and the television did also. We watched a bit more coverage of the damage taking place along the Jersey Shore. I went to bed not long afterward, and woke this morning to sunshine and quiet. The storm had passed over, leaving little debris in our area. I said a few more prayers of thanks that we had been spared, and for those who were now facing more days without power and the need to repair their homes. The noon time news showed more clips of local damage, and of the utter destruction in New York and New Jersey shorelines.
And all through this weather event, I remained calm and not frightened. I am at home, and this is our home, and we are blessed to be where we are. I believe the recent increase in my medication has made this quiet peace and calm possible. I believe that being here with Rick has, too. We have weathered each storm as it arrives and passes over, and we grow stronger having done so each time. I no longer fear the noises. I know what they are, and that they, too, will pass.
Tonight, we are having some heavy rain and occasional thunder and lightning, both the remnants of Sandy. We are fortunate that the heavy rains did not come with the strong winds, or even more trees and wires might have come down. ‘Frankenstorm’ they called her. And in some places, she did live up to that name. But not here.