Thursday, November 15, 2012

You Can’t Go Home Again

 When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.  ~Author Unknown
The Sands Beach Club, next door to the venue we held our wedding reception. photo credit: A.Mills
I’ve been trying to write this post for days. Unsuccessfully. Revisiting the task was like revisiting the well of emotion I have reserved for what happened. I could only tiptoe around the edge lest I fall in and drown. But I feel that its somewhat disrespectful if I don’t. A disservice to gloss over it. So many things have been lost, so many families have had their homes, their jobs, their possessions, their LIVES destroyed. All we lost was power for eight days and a 10 foot long section of siding on the house. There is just no comparison.
But it still is hard. The storm is not over. Although the wind and the rains have ceased, the tide of emotions is still rising and falling. Its hard to embrace the comfort of thankfulness when I’m overridden with feelings of guilt and helplessness in the face of those people not 2 miles away, who carted the entire contents of their house to the curb. Hard not to cry every time I click on a link to read another story about how people still don’t have power when its been below freezing temperatures at night, and has been for weeks. Hard to not give into the murderous rage I feel when the news reports come in of people stealing generators from their neighbors, siphoning fuel from the emergency response vehicles, and attacking the out-of-state linemen who are thousands of miles from home trying to restore utilities to all of us who were affected by the storm. And then the good tide rolls in. Election Day brought a brief surge of pride for my neighbors as people lined up in our powerless little voting station, generators humming to supply electricity to the polling booths and floodlights. Residents filling out forms by flashlight, and standing in line to vote with smiles and hellos, even though the none of us had any heat or lights or conveniences at home to speak of. The news covering government officials actually working together for once to aid the people they were elected to lead. And the stories of the donations and relief efforts make my eyes well up with gratitude. Of common men doing uncommon goodness for strangers. And for the mighty coming together in efforts to provide benefit concerts and events to help those devastated by the storm. Yet, there is only so much donating money and food and baby clothing, can do to ease the feelings of impotence.
People in my own town emptying their flooded homes after the storm waters receded. photo credit: M.Sullivan
Before Hurricane Sandy hit my state, I already had that horrible premonition feeling in my stomach. The initial reports of flooding and extraordinary wave size that were rolling in even before the storm made landfall were just confirmation to me. I went to bed on October 29th fearing the morning, not really able to sleep, and occasionally dozing off only to have horrific nightmares. Spending the next morning powerless on my cell phone checking the news and Facebook as people posted photos of the devastation was like still being locked in one of my dreams. I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing. I still don’t want to believe it. Places that shape entire chunks of my memories, that define rituals of the seasons, that were the landmarks of pivotal moments in my life have been wiped away. 

Dock from the river washed up on the front lawn of a home in the next town.
Home. To me, its that feeling you get. Not always a defined place on a map with a fixed latitude and longitude, but most often, the place where the rhythms and cycles of the flow of life are familiar and resonate within you. I am a creature of nostalgia, most likely because I haven't had much stability with people, and I find that returning to familiar whereabouts gives me the most comfort. These past weeks I find myself adrift and rudderless in the wrecked remains of this expanse, without my familiar touchstones and reassurances. This storm has ravaged the property of my memories. It has destroyed the areas I've celebrated at, ripped apart where relationships began, where friendships were renewed, and where I've sought solace and remembrance. In short, it has demolished my home, my haven, my sense of security. And the sad part is that its that way for everyone who lives here.
The very beach  my husband proposed, missing most of the boardwalk and sand. photo credit: C.LaPlaca

For almost four months of the year, the small strip of sand that marks the threshold to the ocean is adopted by everyone in the state. Even by people from states away. This is a loss that will be felt hardest by its residents, the people who live and work amid the devastation, but it is a loss that is shared by us all. I can’t see how anyone in this great state made it out unscathed. No matter where our permanent homes are, every one of us has a part of ourselves invested in those magical miles by the sea.
Me and Little Bear at our yearly August beach retreat earlier this year. Notice the houses upper left.
The same houses shown in my beach photo from August. photo credit:A.Mills
The same beach we sat on only two months before, viewed from the walkway between the houses. photo credit: A.Mills
Everything in Sandy’s path has been touched and reshaped. Landscapes have been rearranged. Landmarks have been expunged. And most of all, the people have been irrevocably altered. We will recover. We will rebuild. In a year or two, we will look back with pride at what we have overcome. But I don’t think we will ever be able to forget.
As so wonderfully suggested by a NOLA writerwho has lived through this type of devastation amid the aftermath of Katrina and lived to tell about it, are the words from Ulysses;

“Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Stay strong.
These people are doing amazing things for the people needing help along the Jersey Shore. Please think of donating. Project Rebuild Recover and Waves for Water.

1 comment: