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Lessons From A Storm

November 9, 2012

When I heard the early report of an approaching storm called Sandy, my first thought was: Cool. I’ve never had a storm with my name before. They never make it this far into the alphabet. That thought died when I saw the size of the system and realized its deadly potential. Lesson: It’s not always about me. Maybe not really a lesson, certainly not a new thought, but something I need to be reminded of now and again.

The weekend before the storm was filled with preparation as we tried to anticipate possible consequences. What’s the first thing I did? Backed up my computer, of course. A lesson remembered from a year ago when I lost weeks of work. That taken care of, what next? Water. Make sure we have water on hand to cover any emergency. Another lesson remembered: Water, such a humble substance, so taken for granted, is the very essence of life. Only slightly less important is food – the non-perishable kind. Next on the list: batteries. An inventory was in order – and a shopping trip. Once that was done, we moved the porch furniture to the garage, unplugged electrical devices to protect against power surges, etc., etc., until we were as ready as we could be.

When the lights went out at 8:30 Monday night, we piled on the covers and climbed in bed with books and flashlights. It was kind of fun – for a while. Sometime during the night, the adventure took a serious turn. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the sound of a violent wind likened to an oncoming train. I always thought it an interesting comparison; now I appreciate its aptness. A lesson in the power of nature.

Tuesday morning, we looked out the window into a front lawn almost completely covered by trees that had been uprooted – huge trees with root balls wider than I am tall. Seldom have I felt as puny and inconsequential as when I stood beside a fallen oak and considered the force that had toppled it. A lesson in humility.

When the sun came out again, I took a walk around the neighborhood and was struck by the seeming randomness of the damage. On one corner lot, where there had been a row of pines, most of the trees were still upright. Two were down, their roots exposed, like weeds that had been pulled and tossed aside. Why did some trees fall and others stand? The answer has to be in the roots. Some root systems didn’t hold on to the soil that sustained them.Why? A puzzlement. A lesson still to be learned.

Our street was without power for three days; our household without TV and internet for a little over a week – a minor inconvenience compared to what so many experienced and are still experiencing. We were lucky. We can start getting back to normal. The sounds of chainsaws and chippers fill the air. Our yards look less like abandoned logging camps. Actually, we’re better than normal. Neighbors are taking time to stop and talk to each other. The first words out of everyone’s mouth are the same: “Are you okay?” The second: “Anything I can do to help?” We’re remembering how much we like each other, how sad we would be if anyone had not made it through that terrible night. Puny and inconsequential humankind may be, but we’re also resilient and, I believe, good-hearted and well-intentioned. Unfortunately, we’re also busy -often so busy that we forget our best selves. It takes a crisis to remind us that our roots are in each other and we have to hold on to one another if we want to survive. For me, that’s the real lesson from the storm.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca Van Dine permalink
    November 9, 2012 10:42 AM

    Sandy, so beautiful! You truly have such a tender heart!

    • November 9, 2012 10:50 AM

      Thanks, Becky. As for tender hearts, to bring back the cliche we used in high school, it takes one to know one.

  2. November 9, 2012 12:51 PM

    I love your perspective. And since you are the only Sandy I know right now (which seems odd now that I mention it) I thought of you so much during the storm and thought how unfair it was for you to have to share your name with this storm. It would bother me. Heidi doesn’t seem to be a popular name choice for storms/hurricanes/tornadoes, though, so I think I am safe.

    • November 9, 2012 2:38 PM

      You are so kind, Heidi. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’ll cross my fingers for you that Heidi doesn’t pop into the minds of storm-namers.

  3. November 9, 2012 2:06 PM

    Beautiful post, Sandy. Just beautiful. Thanks for the reminder about our “roots in each other” in your well-written words.

    • November 9, 2012 2:39 PM

      Thanks, Marielena. You are definitely an important part of my root system. Glad your parents were safely away when the storm hit and that you found safe haven.

  4. November 9, 2012 5:34 PM

    What a harrowing night for you. Glad the worst is over and that you found positive lessons from the experience. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. It makes it real for those of us far away.

    • November 9, 2012 6:27 PM

      Thanks, Victoria, for the kind words. One of the better things about human beings is the way we come together when the chips are down.

  5. mary renn permalink
    November 9, 2012 9:01 PM

    Thank you Sandra for sharing that experience. So thankful that you and Pete are well. I am sorry for the loss of your trees. That takes some processing. I remember the ice storm we had several years ago, hearing huge limbs dropping and trees splitting. It looked like the aftermath of a war the next day. Wish we could help you clean up.

    • November 9, 2012 9:52 PM

      Thanks, Mary, for the good thoughts. We wish you and Chuck were here too – and not just for cleanup. One way to look at it: the trees weren’t bulldozed down to make a parking lot; they died a natural death at the hands of Mother Nature.

  6. November 10, 2012 11:36 AM

    Those pictures are scary, Sandy. So glad you made it without any further damage!

  7. November 10, 2012 12:01 PM

    So glad all is well Sandy and how amazing that you managed to turn such a scary experience into lessons learned. Humbling for those of us far away from the chaos of the aftermath,

    • November 10, 2012 12:38 PM

      Good to hear from you, Sheila. I think scary experiences bring out the best of most people + I’m close enough to NY and NJ to know how much worse it could be.

  8. November 15, 2012 9:35 AM

    Beautifully put, Sandy. They really got the wrong name for that storm.

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