"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.