I am sitting on the screened porch at my friend Mike’s house. Inside is dark and the porch, though damp and windy, at least offers a bit of daylight and renewal of our spirits.
We had concluded, with encouragement from our adult children, that two seniors who love to live alone would be wise to take shelter together during a storm! By the time I had my car prepared to travel north to where my daughters lived, the highways were already congested with evacuees from south Florida, and gasoline supply was running scarce. So Mike welcomed me into his home, laid out a pair of twin-size mattresses end-to-end, taking up all the floor space in the hall, the safest place in the house He even welcomed my cat Stitch, who was cozied up in the guest bathroom with his food, water and bed and plenty of treats. The door to the bathroom was right next to the head of my mattress.
The night before had been rough. By the time we were ready to sleep, we had already lost power, so it was very dark. The wind whistled and roared. Branches crashed on the roof and Stitch howled in the bathroom. The top of Mikes’ head was inches from the top of my head and I wondered how he slept, but he did. Once I woke him up saying “Mike, I’m scared!” He didn’t remember saying “Just lay back down. Everything’s going to be ok.” I crawled into the bathroom, spread a towel on the floor and lay down next to Stitch and we comforted each other until soft morning light crept through the bathroom widow.
Mike heated water on the gas stove to make coffee, so now we sit on the porch sipping coffee and we wait. The clouds are dark and heavy and it’s still raining sideways! The trees are bent from the howling wind. Broken branches and fallen trees litter the streets and yards and roofs of houses in the neighborhood. We sit and watch and wait for the power to come back on. We sit and watch and wait for Hurricane Irma to determine our fate. Without power, there is no news from the TV or the internet. The last report we heard had warned us that Irma was still heading our way.
Irma is angry! And we are angry with Irma! How dare she roar into our lives and disrupt our routines! We curse her and disparage her name. While we wait, I make doodles in my sketchpad.
Irmadoodle 1, 2 and 3
“Maybe we should be nicer to her? I say. “She’s just doing what hurricanes are supposed to do. It’s not her fault that we happen to be in her path.”
“Yeah, right” Mike said. “Why don’t you talk to her, then.”
So I did.
I look up at the sky and I talk to her like I would talk to a sister in distress.
“Irma. I know that you’re just doing what’s in your nature. Maybe you’re upset about how we’ve been disrespecting Nature, throwing our trash around and cutting down trees, digging treasures out of the earth and spilling horrible things into the waters. And I’m sure you must be upset with how we’ve been talking about you and saying mean things about you. But I’m asking you if you can’t just go way out in the ocean and calm down a little. Just take a deep breath and move away from the land where there are innocent people who could be hurt by your wrath. Please. We’ll try to do better. I promise.”
Now I’ll admit that I’m just making conversation while we wait and this little speech is my attempt to bring a little lightness into the situation. At the same time, however, I sort of believe – or want to believe – that she is listening.
Suddenly the rain slows down. The wind calms. And the two paddle fans on the porch slowly start turning! The power is back on! Mike and I look at each other with wide eyes and mouths hanging open.
“Did that just happen?” he says.
“What? You doubted?” I fire back and we laugh, if for no other reason than the amazing synchronicity of it.
The TV comes on and we rush inside to see what’s happening on the news. “Hurricane Irma has changed direction and appears to be heading out into the Gulf.”
Later that day I feel secure enough to pack up all my stuff, and Stitch and his stuff, and we’re ready to go home!. As I drive up the street from Mike’s house someone with a chain saw is cutting up a tree that fell across the street onto a power line, just in time to let me pass. On the way home I take detours where fallen trees block my usual route. Leaves, branches and debris are everywhere. Water stands in deep puddles, blocking lanes of traffic. When I get home I notice that the apartment across the street has a huge tree limb through the roof! I am relieved that my place is intact.
Stitch is so happy to be home! He demands his food, then demands to go to his favorite place – HIS back porch. I sit with him, looking out into my little back yard. The clouds are dark and dreary. It’s not raining, but the trees are still dripping. I am depressed. I am sad. I keep thinking about the things I said to Irma and I am worried about what we’re doing to Nature. And can I keep my promise? I promised that we’d do better!
Suddenly the dark clouds separate and a blinding flash of sunlight bursts through and lights up the entire back yard! The water droplets on the leaves flash sparkles of brilliant light and the light dances around the little yard! And just as suddenly I feel calm. No! I feel comforted and amused – even excited! I sense that the Ultimate Creator, through Creation – Nature – is reassuring me: “Don’t worry! We’ve got this!”
I came back inside and paint. This painting. As it nears completion, it names itself, by putting this word in my mind:: “Reclamation!”
We can cover the earth with asphalt, but the grass will eventually break through and Nature will reclaim Her own. Our species is the only one who vandalizes and disrespects nature for the benefit of our convenience, our greed, our fears and the glorification of our ego-minds. We may destroy our species, but Nature will reclaim its own.