We are fine, albeit headed upstate New York for a few days as the Swiss Family Robinson routine—though fun at first—has worn thin. We’ve been out of power since Monday evening and they don’t expect it back until next Monday.
No doubt you’ve seen images and heard about the devastation in NYC and NJ. It’s no exaggeration. My heart goes out to all of those who’ve suffered loss and damage. We’ve been incredibly lucky—cozy in front of the fire, sipping wine, reading Tolstoy and ghost stories aloud, and getting lots of writing done (by candlelight when it gets dark, with a fountain pen no less! Sort of sexy really.)
But it’s starting to get chilly and Agustin’s giving a talk up North, so I’m tagging along (hotel has a gym, indoor pool and Jacuzzi – nice!)
My cell phone still has no signal and I’m currently online at the ‘think tank’ on campus (I shall be slow to catch up on all of the messages – my apologies – but thanks for the concern and good wishes). It’s surreal to see trees co-mingling with power lines and the gorgeous autumn leaves all fallen in one fell swoop.
But to balance all the devastation and suffering you are no doubt hearing about, and which I certainly don’t mean to underestimate in any way (I repeat, we have been very lucky), I wanted to share some little ray of good that has come out of the situation…
In the days preceding the storm there was this incredible sense of shared community I don’t think I’ve felt since the 70s/80s. We were all in this together, shopping for batteries and canned goods and sharing our thoughts. It seems we have so few broad-scale shared experiences anymore. Things are far more niche-oriented these days. In a weird way – there was almost something nice about it —a bonding experience, not to mention a nice reminder of how lucky and safe we exist most of the time.
Experiencing the storm itself was also remarkable. From afar, having read about and seen footage of so many tragedies around the world the past few decades—the Tsunami, Katrina, 9/11—not to mention the endless wars and acts of terrorism spanning the globe—I think I’d forgotten what firsthand impending dread feels like. Our worlds can become so myopic if we let them. Many friends back in L.A. are expressing feelings of guilt going about their business on just another sunny day. But why should they? They didn’t wish this on the East Coast. Still, I know where they’re coming from. I’ve felt very removed from the “world” in my own happy cocoon more and more of late. It’s a nice luxury indeed.
But having been a participant observer in this storm has been enlightening. The images I’m only just seeing now back on the grid are merely supporting a fraction of what I’d feared as Sandy’s wrath blew around our townhouse with terrifying ferocity. It was remarkably humbling to witness Nature in such wild form with my own awed eyes. Agustin peered out the window repeatedly, concerned for a family of squirrels in a nest high up a tree out back – their survival seemed impossible. But huddled in their nest as we huddled in ours all came out, I suspect, stronger for having weathered the experience— so to speak. It was devastating no doubt but, mercifully, not the end of the world.
The aftermath is far from over, for some more than others, and it continues to impress and unite. Neighbors stand in groups on street corners sharing their experiences, tales of selflessness and bravery, of workers struggling to put two states and additional cities back together. It’s truly moving and inspiring and has offered some valuable personal insights as well…
Again not meant to undermine those in traumatic situations but, for us, being cut off from the world has been sort of special—for a while. No electricity, no Internet, no connection to the outside world. It made us see how much we still have in our lives beyond these superficial things—more than I think I ever realized. In a way we bonded with our ancestors who knew how to cope outside a ready-made world with every modern convenience at our fingertips.
Not being able to look things up on Google was sort of genius– we turned to creativity with far more fun results. Not being interrupted by other people made it truly all about us. No interruptions, no escape – two people in front of a fire alone with their minds in the dark is illuminating. I’ve filled several pads of paper with thoughts, ideas, fiction and other inspirations.
Nonetheless, I’m ready to return to the world. We head out in a few hours to rejoin the grid. I can only imagine the things we’ll see and experience on our road trip and as we re-adapt to the outside world discovering all that we missed.
It’s been a valuable experience with many lessons learned. Oh and speaking of which, to the nay-sayers who think this “global warming myth” is all just some “crunchy granola liberal conspiracy”—you might want to reconsider…. Also, let’s hold on to FEMA, shall we?