As I wake up to a quiet world, just the hulking echo of that terrifying wind lingers in the air, a still-ominous presence not quite gone. My dog, Cosmo, and I venture onto the
street, I, dressed for bear, he, golden fur flying; I, with tentative steps, he, with
curiosity and wonder, nose twitching to the new smells of trees ripped from the earth,
wet mounds of leaves everywhere.
We wander up one street and find a tall tree uprooted, on its side, a fallen warrior, half the tree on top of a car sitting in the driveway, crushed now, the windshield smashed,
the hood caved in. Cosmo sniffs at the underside of the tree. I see the roots, torn
asunder, and hear the question forming in my mind, "Shouldn't this tree have had deeper roots? Why didn't it hold?" Me questioning Nature: the silliness of that effort silences my
thoughts. The owner surveys the damage to his car and marvels aloud, to me, to the
wind, to anyone, to no one, to himself, "It could have been worse. Much worse. No one was in the car. It didn't land on the house. No one was hurt. Thank God. Thank God."
I just listen as he speaks, hearing the words, and the fear behind the words, and the
relief, too. The urgent need to speak, to connect, to know, through our speaking, our
aliveness. My skeptical mind spews out a thought: in anger? in outrage? in frustration?
"Yes, and it could have also been a lot better: the tree could have NOT landed on your
car. You could have been spared this fear and aggravation,and the cost of repairing the
damage." I find myself ashamed at this unbidden, unwelcome thought, at my inability
to suppress it, to unthink it. I admire this man's faith: I'm jealous, knowing myself
incapable of that type of belief.
We move on, Cosmo and I, and we see power lines down; I warn a few cars to turn back, "It's not safe here," I gesture in some sort of universal language of hand waving: 'stop,'
'turn around.' And they do. Around the corner, my heart sinks. Another tree shredded into two perfect halves, one
half proudly holding its ground, the other snapped and broken, drooping treacherously
close to the earth. And yet, as I look up, I spot a bird's nest tucked inside the branches,
safe and sound. Maybe it doesn't matter.Maybe they've flown the coop long ago. Still, I
feel a stupid happiness, that something has survived that represents life and nurturing and home. Some houses look fine; not much there, just some twigs and branches strewn across a
front lawn, some garbage pails tipped over, rocking softly side to side, as if resting after all the tumbling about. Other houses look wretched: gutters hanging down, twisted metal smashed into windows, or dragging the roof down on one side; trees knocked about and showing the fatigue from the long night's effort of Just Holding On. That house haunts me; I consider taking a few photos but feel like an intruder, as if I
were stealing something, or uncovering something intensely naked and private. I resist
the temptation and move on. And so we stroll, Cosmo and I, careful to step around cracked pavements where trees
have ripped them open, revealing their surprised underbellies to the air, and to our
curious stares. Hurricane Sandy. They're calling this a SuperStorm. The Perfect Storm. Now I see why.
The destruction makes the streets look like we've been through a war. A war we had
warning of, a war for which we diligently prepared, imagining that we had done well and would be quite safe: water and batteries stocked, the barbecue grill tied down with
rope. And yet, a war we couldn't possibly win. Nature, for whose bounty we can never be grateful enough. Nature, whose furious destructive powers raged through the night far
exceeding what we could ever withstand. The wind chimes hanging from the tree in our backyard have survived; they sway softly
now, sounding a quiet harmony. Maybe it's like this: maybe if we don'thold on too
tightly, we can allow ourselves to be whipped about, free to go this way and that,
settling back in the lull between the wind-swept attacks, and surviving. And maybe the
metaphor doesn't work at all, not supported by the rules of science.
But I like it anyway. It gives me hope.