She was quick and devastating.
The hot, muggy, clingy summer day was no match for her. She wrestled away summer’s blue skies and blinding sunshine with her oppressive grey and green clouds and swarming winds. The sun ran and hid, too easily giving up the battle for the heavens. She settled over a patchwork of small towns and unleashed her anger; a storm ferocious enough to make headlines and mean enough to steal our electricity.
In towns unaccustomed to hurricanes or tornadoes, the storm seemed foreign.
We weren’t prepared, and it so painfully showed. When she left, we were a mess. Our power had been stolen, and our way of life altered for a measly few hours or an uncomfortable few days. We descended upon the gas stations to gobble up every ounce of gasoline we could, and to raid the shelves of ice, water, chips, and beer. Our streets became eery causeways of desperation and boredom. Some of us drove out of necessity, others of us drove to get out of the house.
We sat in the dark of our homes that night, with a bead of sweat on our brows, facing a decision: to be uncomfortable, or to be adventurous. The following days would become a test of our decisions.
But in the dark, something beautiful happened.
We became neighborly. We stopped by the homes of our friends, and the strangers next door to check in. We pitched in to help cut trees, patch roofs, and bring water. And even more wonderfully, we talked. It seems that without power, we were less likely to pull into our garages and hide from the outside world.
We sat on our porches, shared cold drinks, and talked.
I guess that it took a storm and massive power outage to remind us of the really important things in life. To remind us that we are capable of being alive, and smiling, and laughing, even when our most precious comforts have been taken from us. Those days without power were uncomfortable, yes. But they were also a welcome solstice from our everyday expectations and rituals. They gave us an opportunity to camp with our families, play boardgames by candlelight, help out our neighbors, write a song, steal a kiss, and read a good book.
The storm taught us an uncomfortable and embarrassing lesson: we are strangely dependent upon strange things.
Electricity, gasoline, cable tv shows, facebook, jobs, projects, air conditioning, and a myriad of other things tend to give us a sense of security and satisfaction. But, maybe more dangerously, they tend to feign us with a sense of identity. We become too easily wrapped up in the things we own, and the things we can afford. In a way, those things rob us of being deeply human. They replace a beautiful life with a maintained life. We exhaust ourselves making sure we can afford things, or proving how important we are, and that seems silly.
Sometimes we need to remember that life isn’t about stuff or being important. It’s about conversations, cold drinks, and checking in.
If you’ve been affected by the storms, what has your reaction been?