Lessons From A Storm
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.