"Oh,' said a very white body as it threw a wrist watch to the ground which broke without attracting anyone's attention, 'Oh, how can anyone not love poetry, natural machines, large white houses, the brilliance of steel, crimes and wild passions?"
~ Robert Desnos
|Tree in the Wind by Joan Miró|
...Or violent storms?
She departed late Sunday afternoon, leaving us with waves of warm breath and felled limbs and lines. The Canadians had skedaddled (I can no longer use that word without thinking of JeannetteWalls's memoir, The Glass Castle) the previous day, rushing to get ahead of Irene before she heaved in like the great big storm she was meant to be. And she was, at least that is, in many areas around New England.
We are minus a tree. It fell into a gurney of wire and rubber netting.
Isn't it beautiful?
|This tree fell across the street directly into a neighbor's driveway.|
We are minus, actually, many, many trees. Trees that never seemed more alive split and pivoted and drifted where Irene commanded. Trees hurled themselves toward the farm and the highland beyond that to the west and the shuttered city to the south, and treacherously, toward capes and colonials and bungalows. But I saw only one home that had been hit by a tree. Two trees, in fact—the damage transparently marginal. (Perhaps not to the homeowner.)
We had no power for days. (My electricity was restored by Tuesday night, though as I write this piece, service—including the internet—is prickly and more than fifty thousand Rhode Islanders are still minus electricity.) No electricity, no internet, no phones and for many, no water. Irene, not without warning, adorned us with coal-tar, high-voltage snakes hissing and snapping at air. Crack-mouthed spectators studied the spectacle. Sometimes too closely.
We are minus power. We feel we should go to bed when the sun sets and awaken as it rises.
Isn’t it beautiful?
Now, many people have jobs where there were none before, like cutting through fugitive trees and hauling their limbs and trunks. Electricians replace ballasts and perform other terrifying high-wire acts. Carpenters repair molding and roofers take to the sun-faded and wind-lashed tiles. Noise, noise everywhere!
(Those who've been re-energized—thanks to the hardworking professionals who are now working so hard they've no time to sleep—share water and help others in all ways possible, like offering a warm shower, or an oven or a refrigerator or food, or wine!)
And as some continue to wait for the flicker of lights, even the rattle of little plastic and metal playing pieces and their game boards are once again heard. Books—spined, paper books are comfortably cosseted and the flipping pages set the timbre and timing like a worn metronome.
But before the noise we walked into the streets, into a surreal scene. Nothing looked as it should be but looked as one would expect it to be. Everything appeared to still be there but much of it had been re-positioned in dangerous ways so that it was clear to the observer that it would soon not be there. Many trees that lay broken are now gone. The beautiful trees. At night, when we went to bed, we slept in star-blotted black quiet, without the rumble of fans or air conditioning or even a songbird. There is a certain eloquence to silence, the August moon was as silent as it's ever been.
The blackness was blinding. And enlightening. Many conversations erupted: Remember old wooden ice boxes and the rag man? Outhouses and reading by oil lamps, laundry scrubbed on washboards and dried on the line? (I remember my mother tying my brother to the line—but that, as they say, is another story). Grass cut with push mowers instead of machines we sit on? Wood fires burned all day to heat the homestead? Walking, yes walking, to school? (Wait—what does that have to do with a hurricane?!)
And we think we work hard.
In Rhode Island, we are minus surf deaths. Actually, in Rhode Island, Irene took no one. Though sadly, over forty people in thirteen states were killed in storm related accidents, and lush, gorgeous Vermont is in crisis. More than two Irene related deaths were caused by rough surf. What compels one to throw a surfboard into the sea during a hurricane? But the surfers: they died doing what they love, didn't they?
There is a French expression known as l'un dans l'autre. Which means, in English, literally all in all or all things considered, on balance. In French, the phrase is expressed more like one thing in another or seeing one thing through another.
Things are as we see them (until we see them differently). We are minus this and plus that. What may be beautiful to one is ugly to another. There is nothing like a ferocious storm—the moments before, during and after—to remind us of this.
One might say what the French writer and poet, Andre Breton, observed: The birds have never sung better than in this aquarium.
Isn't it beautiful?
* * *
Guitarist Ottmar Liebert and his Luna Negra band have been recording nouveau flamenco style music since 1989. His instrumental music, a sanctuary from the storm, offers clarity and hope. Each song tells a story, conjures a specific place and time, and the silent narrative is both mesmerizing and emotional. The music, like his song titles, is passing storms. It is Turkish nights, Spanish rumbas, a Havana club, and light: morning light, moonlight, streetlight. It is flowers, butterflies and falling stars and beating hearts. It is beautiful.
Jayne, even describing the destructiveness of a storm you have skillfully managed to make it sound beautiful in its own remarkable way.ReplyDelete
I love Andre Breton;)
Storms do have their purpose and aggressive beauty. They have a way of removing the weaker things, in order to make room for new growth.
Now to go listen to the music you posted. I always enjoy your selections!
Jayne, I'm so happy and relieved to see you back here with power and water and beautiful words.ReplyDelete
I'm glad to know you weathered the storm and came out fine on the other side. Each hurricane tells its own tale, and you have told Irene's well.ReplyDelete
Man boasts look what I have made, what I have done with the earth. I have made soemthing out of nothing. Nature shrugs her shoulders then she shouts into the wind or stamps her feet into the earth. " You are nothing, temporary. I allow you to be. Then she smiles I am your mother."ReplyDelete
So glad you didn't blow away, that you weren't positioned in some fashion to not still be here.ReplyDelete
I love the paint brush of your words, lady.
Glad to hear you made it through the storm...nice post.ReplyDelete
We do get so caught up in our technology, it becomes such a part of us, that we feel a sense of "loss" when it fails us. But as you clearly pointed out, these things are transitory and essentially meaningless in the grander scope of things.ReplyDelete
gorgeous visuals, thank you.ReplyDelete
Forced togetherness is still togetherness and togetherness is beautiful. Great Post.ReplyDelete
Leah- We've weathered other hurricanes, but I think I may have been too young to appreciate their significance (at least during the last major hurricane in 1985).ReplyDelete
I remember falling in love with Andre Breton when I studied psychology (and Realism) years ago. I was happy to revisit him here. ;)
Oh Nessa, I've SO much catching up to do! I welcomed the quiet, really did. Everything is a flurry now.ReplyDelete
At least my refrigerator is clean and no longer overstocked. Who wants to eat meat that's been frozen for years? ;)
Carol- We've many stories from this storm. ;)ReplyDelete
Duke- How she scolds us.ReplyDelete
Everything on earth is baroque. The boat is no more made for the sea than the sky. (Robert Desnos)
DB- I didn't dare wander in the winds! ;)ReplyDelete
Loree- Thank you! :)ReplyDelete
Robert- Which brings us to what has meaning and why we must we find meaning in all things? Well, perhaps not all...ReplyDelete
There is real meaning in a match, I tell you!
EcoGrrl- You're most welcome. Thanks for being here! ;)ReplyDelete
Munk- Togetherness certainly helps us get through trying times. So does wine.ReplyDelete
Really, how is it all the liquor stores remain open during and after a hurricane? That is one recession (and storm) proof business. ;)
brings to mind the many hurricanes that have blown through here. Losing the trees is always the worst of it for me (as my house has always come through intact).ReplyDelete
I love this post Jayne. I am often struck by how communitites come together to clean up, rebuild, after a storm. That reconstructive energy is immense and and powerful.ReplyDelete
Beautiful Spanish guitar and my brand new favorite quotation...I am enriched!ReplyDelete
Good to have you back among us. Poor, poor Vermont.
love the picture in after the rain. i can imagine frodo and sam passing through on their way to mordor.ReplyDelete
there is something so something about a storm's aftermath. somehow you feel more something. :)ReplyDelete
glad you and yours are all safe and sound.
Beautifully written and I love the perspective of making the best out of even the hurricane.ReplyDelete
Aww J girl you have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this one...capturing the whole storm and aftermath very neatly.ReplyDelete
Again another great piece of work from you...don't stop!
If you don't have power a notebook and pencil will suffice....
wow..that guy is good. I really like flamenco, and he's awesome at it.ReplyDelete
So glad to hear you made through some what unscathed. I love your description, you do make it sound different from what I know it was.ReplyDelete
And I do love the idea of "seeing one thing through another," if only we all could see this way. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow
I bet Ottmar Liebert/Luna Negra sell some MP3s from this post.ReplyDelete
So good to have you back. (Well, you weren't gone of course -- but a missing connection boils down to the same thing!) And as others have noted, this is so well written: just the right amount of ruminative heft in what is ostensibly a "here's what happened" post.
Back in the early '80s, a hurricane blew through west central NJ, where I lived at the time. Although it wasn't much of a hurricane by then, it was more like a hurricane than others I've experienced, in one respect: the eerie and short-lived calm and the blue sky as the eye passed overhead... followed by the sudden reversal of wind direction as the opposite side of the wall hit.
I never had to go through anything like what y'all went through with Irene. But I miss one aspect of violent storms up north, even plain old thunderstorms: after they passed, no matter how hot and muggy the weather had been before, it was always sunny and cooler afterwards. Down here, when a storm passes, the water turns to steam. Argh.
Ellen- Glad to hear your homestead has survived the storms. More cars than homes got hit by trees around here.ReplyDelete
Tim- Buzzing with energy. It's a good feeling to get out in the streets to find everyone alive and well, and the entire community ready to get right to work patching it all up. :)ReplyDelete
Nance- How did I know you'd like that quote? Hope all is well in your neck of the woods, or seaside. ;)ReplyDelete
BP- That picture does have a Tolkien feel. Yes... in a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit. ;)ReplyDelete
Id- And that something is quite something... Dare I say things are starting to look almost normal here again? ;)ReplyDelete
Shopgirl- What else can one do?! Those first few moments in the street though: speechless.ReplyDelete
Dan- Thank you... I keep trying with the notebook but I can't read my own writing! (And I can never seem to find it when I need it!)ReplyDelete
Timothy- Quite good. Thanks for joining in here. You'll find more music on the Frolic page. ;)ReplyDelete
Jules- We were fortunate, so I have to feel grateful for that. When the power returned to my street on Tuesday evening, though, and it had not to our neighbors around the block, I felt pretty bad. Those neighbors had to wait another couple of days. Ugh. I had reached the threshold at day three!ReplyDelete
I'm glad to hear that you and yours are safe and though there is damage, it's not as serious as it could have been. This is a beautiful way to describe the destruction that was Irene.ReplyDelete
JES- It's good to be back. To see the light!ReplyDelete
Was that Gloria? She caused some fairly significant damage in RI. I've always loved a good storm for precisely its afterglow, those moments before everything is buzzing again.
The day after Irene the sky was as blue as I'd ever seen it. Remarkably blue. A deep sky blue like you see only in the tropics. I don't know why I didn't take a picture. I wanted to. I looked at the sky and thought, this is not your ordinary New England sky, this is a sky from a travel brochure, this sky doesn't belong here. One of those am-I-in-the right-place? moments. But then the busyness of the day got the best of me and I never took that photo. Oh well, next hurricane. ;)
(Water turns steamy? That is an Argh.)
Hilary- Thank you. And it's good to see you again. Hope all is well out west.ReplyDelete
Loved that last set of photos. :)
I am glad you were not swept out to sea by the storm. I hope your fall will be filled with gentle and warm days.ReplyDelete
Laoch- Thanks much. Fall is my favorite season--sweater weather and glorious color that is the prelude to the ski season. Much to look forward to. :)ReplyDelete
You've had a wild time, Jayne. Glad you're safe and blogging again. Wasn't The Glass Castle an arresting read?ReplyDelete
Your writing reads like pure poetry, you involve all the senses in your beautiful prose - what a beautifully expressed piece, dear Jayne.ReplyDelete
I think I would have been terrified in your shoes - although I do understand the mixed blessings a power outage can bring. As a child, during our "Winter of discontent", when it seemed the entire country went on strike, we endured sceduled "black-outs" several days each week - we read by candle-light, cooked over coal fires, and took turns entertaining each other with music, song and wild tales. At ten, it felt no hardship!
Penelope- Wild, indeed. Though your part of the world has certainly taken it's fair share of the blows.ReplyDelete
"Arresting" is the adjective for Walls's book. Coming from a fairly "normal" upbringing, I found some of the stories hard to believe, but having worked with the mentally ill, I know these stories well. And it hurts to even know them.
Thanks for stopping by Penelope, and for commenting. Good to see you here. :)
Shrinky- That Winter of Discontent would have been terrifying for me! But at ten years old, yes, it's all an adventure--and in most cases mom or dad are handling all the real work. But that's how it should be, right? We don't necessarily want our children to feel the hardship (though it wouldn't necessarily hurt). We want to protect them from terrible things and not add to any anxiety.ReplyDelete
That is the one thing that I tried very hard to do--not downplay the threat of Irene, but to not let my anxiety be too transparent. We stocked up and put candles around the house and flashlights in certain rooms, but I was careful to keep it all matter-of-fact: it's a hurricane, we've had them before, we just need to prepare in the event of power loss...
Of course, kids are pretty adept at reading into things.
So, Shrinky, you're thoughtful parents did an excellent job at allowing the Winter of Discontent to be an adventure for you. ;)
One compels one to throw a surfboard into the sea during a hurricane? until you've stood on a board you'll never understand what would compel one to do such a thing. It's the same thing that compels a junky to score or a "financial advisor" to play the markets, sorta like that, just a bit more pure and beautiful.ReplyDelete
Kono- I have been on a board in the sea, but not to the point where I fell in love with it. Not even to the point where I fully rode a wave. Maybe if I had, I'd better understand the rush. I get that rush when I ski, but I wouldn't hit the mountains in a blizzard (then again, the lifts wouldn't be open).ReplyDelete
I understand your point though--the absolute love of a thing is spellbinding, and the high we get from partaking in it fully balances the risk (or so we believe). But trying to catch the highest wave in the middle of a hurricane? Well, it seems that it's more than just the high--seems it's also driven by ego, need for recognition, for that epic moment, coupled with the invincible delusion. But hey, those obviously invincible surfers went down doing what they love.
When I look at my kids headed down a narrow, steep and icy passage, I think that was a dumb thing for me to do--teach them how to ski--there are some pretty serious risks here for god's sake, and it'll be on my head if anything happens to them! But they love it. They love the snow, the mountains, the speed. There'll be no stopping them now. And risks are inherent in just about anything we do. But I hope my kids make wise decisions like leaving the avalanche alone. ;)
I disagree about the ego thing, no one would know if they did it, the only reason we know is cuz they died doing it... and really as soon as we teach our kids to cross the street their lives become that much more dangerous...ReplyDelete
oh and all the really cool kid's go to Kono and Gulfboot's Crazy Eights.
Kono- True, we may not know about it. Though there's a certain amount of bragging rights that go with catching, and holding onto, a wave of monstrous proportion.ReplyDelete
I don't know, I think Mother Nature deserves more respect.
And crossing the street is perilous! Everything our kids do is perilous! (Ok, Mom, calm down) ;)
*I like them Crazy Eights*
Nouveau flamenco has such a wind-driven feel; in the days when one could go fast on LA freeways, it would have been so much better the old familiars for carrying one along.ReplyDelete
But the storm is a different matter, and I hope Lee has not stalled above you, as it seems is happening so many places. To have come through is no small thing; we never know. Be safe.
Marylinn- You mean one cannot go fast on the LA freeways any longer? (I haven't been out there since 1989.)ReplyDelete
This weekend is gloriously beautiful. Sunny, warm with slight breeze. Not one remnant left of Irene, or other churning storms, save for a few stray branches waiting for pick-up. :)