The last week or so has certainly been colorful around here. Final cookout and beach plans. College students heading off in over-packed vehicles. Friends having babies.
Oh — and a hurricane. I do love some wild weather.
Those of us on the East Coast had a friendly visit from Irene. Honestly, with all the hype and comparisons to Gloria in 1985, I was a little let down. Not much rain here, though there were some pounding wind gusts.
My friend Bud and his daughter Martha went out to the sea wall in Marshfield to watch the show. Forecasts warned of tides 4 to 8 feet about normal levels, which would have had the beach strips swamped all the way to the wall itself. However, this was not quite the way it happened. In fact, Bud reported, the water had not risen at all — not toward the sea wall, at any rate. No, for the first time in his life, rather than the ocean crashing upon the shore toward where he and Martha stood observing, the swelling waves were undulating solidly right to left across his field of vision. Fascinating.
When all was said and done, I ventured out to survey the town. On my way to the car, the smell of wet earth and pine hung thick in the air, smelling more like Christmas than summer. As I drove, I was shocked at how much damage had actually been sustained this far inland. For while the view from my window had not been particularly impressive, the aftermath elsewhere left clear record of the storm’s true force. Just up the road a mile, on one friend’s street, a massive tree had crashed straight down through the roof and into the living room of his next-door neighbor. Two lots up, a second neighbor’s house was in similar straights. Several vehicles within a stone’s throw from his front yard lay crushed, cleaved or upended by still other trees or large branches. One tree had fallen out instead of in, bringing down not only the power lines, but cracking the telephone pole itself in two, both smashing down in a tangle to block the roadway entirely.
As I drove, I saw gardens uprooted, fence posts missing and other roadways and sidewalks choked out with debris.
Then there were the power outages. The jack-hammer drone of generators could be heard across the town. Shelters remained open for days. Frozen and refrigerated foods spoiled. School openings were delayed.
Through it all, people learned that they could, in fact, live without checking email or watching YouTube. Kids caught up on eleventh-hour summer reading by windows or kerosine lamps. Neighbors helped each other with cleanup. Cold showers got people clean in record time. Family and friends visited each other, sharing meals made from what food could be salvaged, some cooked on grills or even campfires.
Wonder of wonders, life didn’t stop. In some ways, I wondered if it had begun for some people, blowing dust from long unused creativity, resourcefulness and good will.
Today, the roadways are clear. Grocers and other amenities were once again buzzing. School buses carried students off to another year of classes. Generators were packed away and, as evening fell, windows were lit with their usual yellow and orange glow. If you didn’t know any better, you’d never believe we’d had a violent storm, certainly not as recently as last week.
In it all, I saw something reflective of life on the broader scale. Every so often, a sizable storm whirls in, pounding down upon our hearts with sudden force. Heated arguments. Break-ups. Financial crises. Loss. Death. And you look around and wonder how it will ever get cleaned up, how things could ever be right again. But then, time passes and this branch gets dragged away or that patch of grass is reseeded. The cellar gets pumped.
Sometimes, as the sun shines down upon the front yard, we remember the oak that had stood there and how it had provided such lovely shade. We glance wistfully at the wall where the worn outlines of cherished photos has been covered over with new paint. Our fingers trace the car door where the finish never quite matched again afterward. We remember, as we should. But we are no longer immobilized as we had been — as we imagined we might always be, back when it was all crashing down upon us.
No, rage as it may, no storm lasts forever. There is great comfort to be found in the truth of these words: “This, too, shall pass.”