Monday afternoon the winds began to rise and the big eighty foot trees that ring my property began to dance. It is an awesome sound and sight to see these still giants bend and bow and tangle their branches.
Trees Down Everywhere
At dusk I stood in my office and watched the transformer up the street explode in a shower of green sparks as brilliant as any Fourth of July display. After the showers of sparks, I saw an orange flame. Everything went dark. It was not until Tuesday afternoon that I discovered that a pine tree had fallen across the road and taken down the power lines.
Fixing the Hole
The house went still as lights and refrigerator and heat all clicked off. I wondered how cold the night might be. The winds still arrived in gusts and I hoped the trees would hold. One didn’t. I watched in shock as it blew and then realized it was not blowing, but falling towards my neighbor’s home. The wind blocked the sound of splitting beams as the trunk cleaved the end of their house in two. Landing between the end wall and the bedroom, the trunk snapped the main support beam making the side wall tilt and the chimney lean. I prayed their family was on the ground floor. Remarkably they still had lights since the blackout ended at my house.
Blackout in my Livingroom
After seeing that, my husband and I retreated to the basement. I hoped that falling trees would miss us but if they fell I wanted to be below ground level. That night we slept in the living room, away from the largest trees that ring the upper floor, tucking in tight to the support wall between our kitchen and living room.
The next morning we woke to a cold intact house. We spent the day helping our neighbors cut branches and cover what we could of the hole in their roof with a blue tarp. It has been seven days and no one has come to remove that tree from their home.
The city removed downed trees. Neighbors who haven’t spoken in months exchanged news. We used our crank radio to hear what was happening but I still have not seen any images except the ones in the newspapers. We cooked on our gas stove, which still worked and wore winter coats to bed, retiring early and rising early as our ancestors used to do.
The public libraries became centers of activity for charging electronics and connecting with loved ones via the internet. Every outlet was taken with a cell phone or laptop. Grocery stores reopened but quickly ran short of ice, batteries, matches, candles.
On Thursday, at two in the morning, I woke to the sound of our security alarm engaging and giving a warning that it would sound in 90 seconds. I ran around the house looking for the remote and flicked it back off before the siren sounded. The power was on. The heat came up and I breathed a sigh as I removed my scarf and hat and went back to bed.
Now the gas lines stretch for miles and I hear from a neighbor that people are fighting at the home improvement stores over lumber and plywood. Some communities are alive with open restaurants and movie theaters while other communities are dark. Like the storm’s destruction, the recovery is random but real recovery will take many months.
It is hard to have your foundation of safety so thoroughly shaken. It is hard to be patient as your neighbor’s blue tarp flaps over the hole in his roof. But it is good to see the sunrise fill your home with light after a cold, dark night. And it is good to see people working so long and hard to set things right.
One of the authors I follow on line Tweeted on Tuesday that Sandy would ultimately be a blessing. At the time, sitting in the cold and dark with my smart phone battery draining away. I felt very much like wringing her neck. Honestly, I still do. But there have been moments of peace and gratitude and glimmers of insight mixed with the sorrow and the fear.
Sandy is no blessing. But I do have many blessings to numerous to count.