Marsha lives in central Florida and has seen her share of nature’s follies, so I knew she wasn't being flippant. "If you’ve got a good roof and you’re not in immediate danger, a hurricane is totally amazing,” she said, pausing to put the gist into words. “It reminds me that I’m just a leaf. A leaf in the wind.”
The devil is in the “ifs,” of course. All day the satellite maps had looked like a Van Gogh painting, clouds covering the entire Eastern Seaboard like a swirl of thick white paint. If all went as predicted, we weren’t in line for a direct hit, but with the strong winds and rain there was no way to know if a tree would fall and break through the roof (as one did several years ago), or if the power would go out for several days or a week (as it did after this summer’s “derecho”). With elderly parents in a house where the heat, lights and kitchen appliances are all electric, those were no small “ifs.”
Down in the kitchen, my parents didn’t share Marsha’s existential zeal. Mom was all nervous energy, singing old songs at a volume matched only by her propensity for getting lyrics wrong. “Chock Full of Nuts is a WONDEFUL coffee! WONDERFUL coffee! WONDERFUL coffee!” she belted out as she checked flashlight batteries and filled water pitchers. “Should we cook the fish now in case the power goes out?” she asked. (Yes.) “Could we carry mattresses downstairs if we have to sleep in the basement?” (No.) Dad coped in his characteristic fashion: quietly, his eyes deep in thought and lips shut.
“I’ll be coming down the mountain when I come!” Mom blasted as she sprinkled balsamic vinegar on the salad we ate for dinner with the salmon and rice she had prepared earlier in the day. After dinner we played cards together as the TV flashed images of waves surging Maryland’s Eastern Shore and New Jersey’s beach towns.
By the time I went to bed, the wind was howling in longer gusts than any I’d ever heard. The graceful fir trees along the driveway arched like kids doing the limbo. “Marsha’s right,” I thought, awed by nature’s force (though for good measure I moved from the guest room into my old bedroom, because it has fewer trees on the periphery).
By morning the trees were steady and the rain had slowed to a drizzle. I flicked the light switch in the bathroom and smiled. Electricity. No fallen trees. No broken windows or flooding. I went down to the kitchen to make tea. Dad followed right behind me, chipper and talkative, and I realized how frightened he must have been the day before. He keeps his cards close to the vest, my dad.
I went out to pick up the newspaper (wrapped in TWO plastic sleeves) off the front patio. Dad and I shared sections quietly until Mom woke up and turned on the TV. Seeing the flooded towns, collapsed homes, downed power lines, and sea rescues, I appreciated the opportunity to ponder nature's fickle powers and ephemeral gifts with the comfort of a cup of tea and warm slippers; to be able to say, “I survived Sandy. And all I got was this lousy blog post!”