When Storms Pass & Seasons Change

This past week with the impending threats of damage to homes and life itself, as Hurricane Matthew charted its course through the Atlantic and across islands and coastlines, all of us in its projected path found a “Fight or Flight” response active.

Now, in its aftermath, there are those thankful to be cleaning up only yard debris and throwing out spoiled food, as power outages denied us the privilege of conveniences and internet access for a few days.  There are others still reeling from the ordeal of being helpless in the wake of rising waters and wind damage that has swept away their homes, places of work and places of community gatherings and care.

As one of those called to evacuate a coast line where heavy damages were projected, I found myself traveling amidst others fleeing unstoppable forces of nature.  As always, especially in crisis situations, I found myself praying on behalf of people with whom I traveled with an ear attuned to stories and circumstances.  I was thankful for a car in which to pack a few necessities, and two dogs for companionship.  I was thankful for neighbors who agreed to take my mother’s small dog with them, as they made arrangements to make a hasty exodus out of harm’s way, though it was a short “turn around” for them as snowbirds just arriving from Canada.

As people waited in line for gas, there was some impatience, prior leaving the “island”.  People where quickly shifting into a different gear while trying to keep their wits about them.  This stood in contrast to the scene a few days later, upon returning to see what damage had been done and consider structures still standing.  A day out from where I had sought safe grounds as the storm passed, an elderly man, behind me at a motel where I was first in line with a dozen others waiting to see if a cancellation would open up a room for even one night, lamented that he and his wife had been searching for days to find a room in which to shower and rest.  I excused myself from the line, saying I had to check on dogs in my car, where I returned and decided another night of car camping could be managed.  Thankfully, I ‘d packed my sleeping bag and pillow, and interstate rest stops are well lit.  A few hours of sleep anywhere is better than none, and my dogs didn’t seem to mind the cozy quarters.  I found myself thankful for a rest room and sink in which to brush my teeth and take a “spit bath”, compensations learned as a hiker coming off trail long enough to re-group and refresh.

Then there was a homeless man, exhibiting signs of a non-aggressive mental illness, seated in a booth at a fast food restaurant.  I considered how he already knew what it was to be Homeless, and felt a sort of connection with his plight, though I had chosen it for myself in a different context.  All I had to offer was a package of mixed nuts and a granola bar, along with a cup of coffee full of sugar and cream (my weakness).  We talked for a few minutes before I left to get back on the road in an already packed vehicle with dogs waiting anxiously to see what I’d brought them. (In exchange for their comforting presence, I often purchase an item or two off the dollar menu to keep the adventure fun for us.)

Arriving at my Mom’s, after dark, to find mostly vegetation compromised and houses in her neighborhood a block and a half off the Atlantic with minimal damage, I learned the power and internet had only recently been restored.   Emptying the freezer and refrigerator of spoiled food seemed a small price to pay when so many others in North and South Carolina and Georgia were facing much worse consequences from the hurricane’s passage—not to forget the total devastation left for Haitians and other islanders south of Florida.

These past few days I’ve taken few pictures. It seems my focus has been on things that sustain and motivate people in a crisis situation:  a voice (a kind word spoken), a gesture (of kindness), and occasionally a touch of reassurance (when it seemed needed).  I am weary from traveling, but find myself more aware of mercies and gifts of time, provision, and company along the way.  I became aware that sometimes we isolate ourselves without realizing how much we have done so, until temporal things are stripped away or threatened.  I found myself needing to live “in the moment” and flow, under-the-radar and somehow detached from the anxiety around me.  These are my thoughts as I regroup back in a “safe place” (for now):

Sometimes we are given a window of time and presence of mind to retrieve, remember, affirm, and resolve to embrace our own humanity with all its complications and imperfections—-to breathe and allow forgiveness and compassion to tend to embers from which reconciliation with our diversity will lead us more gently into what we might become—-a nobler presence in the world.

I believe in a God merciful enough to bear with us as we continue searching for ourselves amidst wreckage, as we gain sensibility and become willing to relate to one another in more even-tempered ways.  I’m reminded we are made from the dust into which the Divine can breathe new life—-making all things new—-however much we polish the exterior and refine our bodies or our homes, we are still vulnerable to harm—even destruction.  How humble we should be, knowing our times and lives are really beyond our own control.  How thankful we should be to see beauty, receive a provision, or know a kindness anywhere.

As we wait for restoration, we need to handle the gift of life and love with intentions of doing good, not harm, and seek to gain understanding of ourselves and others.  Stepping into new seasons of life, after storms have passed, can be painful; but we need to go forward holding our brokenness with open hands, offering encouragement and gestures that time will add to a healing process.  Letting go of the past is never easy, and when it is swept away, out of our control, I choose to believe we are being presented with an opportunity to grow up from a root of stability that anchored itself long before storms of destruction arrived.

We are all born for a reason, into a time that is pivotal, destined to become history.  Who we are and how we relate to one another is everything.  Things are temporal.  What remains when a storm has passed, becomes our building materials and tools for restoration.  One truth remains:  We are in it together, as the seasons change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s