If you know me personally, then you probably know that a rash of freak storms tore through western Connecticut on May 15, spawning tornados and microbursts. My house got hit. We are not as bad off as some in our communities, but we sustained heavy damage—my bedroom’s not safe so we’re sleeping in the living room, our back porch was destroyed and what’s left of it is unstable, my husband’s car was flattened by falling trees, and all of our bird feeders and porch furniture were hurled everywhere like so many pick-up sticks. All of this, coupled with the estimated 30 trees on our property that are either downed or contorted in dangerous positions that may not last long, has made my life utter chaos.
Everyone I love is safe, and everything that got broken is all just stuff. And, as more and more people chimed in on Facebook and reminded me that this was a good thing—“it’s just stuff, no one died”—yes, that’s true, but there was something about it that was bothering me. It made me realize that people who lose everything in devastating events like the Kilauea eruption and Hurricane Harvey aren’t just losing stuff. They are losing memories, stability, and their concept of home and what it means, even if only temporarily. It is also struggling to accept a state of chaos that may last for a long time—others not affected move on, while those that were will still be dealing with upheaval and a lack of normalcy months, if not years, afterward. It’s incredibly isolating.
If there is one thing I’m going to walk away from this with, it’s a new compassion for people who are left with nothing but wreckage. I understand the deep emotional impact now in a way I didn’t before. It’s probably going to change my life in many ways in terms of how I respond to natural disasters and how I can physically help. The first thing I wanted to do was go volunteer at the shelter that was set up here in Brookfield (there were people who suffered total, I mean total losses and we weren’t one of them, by far)—but once I got home, the roads were blocked, so I couldn’t leave.
Sadly, there will be a next time, and I will make sure I get there.
Below, the most important things rescued from my bedroom—I only needed to save them because of what they meant, not because of the items themselves.
Build-A-Bear Mumble, Pua the Pig, and the Penguin Dreamlite—These were all stuffed animals my husband Nathan bought me. Mumble, who is the featured character in the 2006 movie Happy Feet, was the hottest item that Christmas. My husband busted his ass to get that thing for me…I heard the horror story on Christmas Eve of how he conned the lady at the counter to call him the second the shipment arrived. He got me the Penguin Dreamlite when he started working at the movie theatre in 2012—he would often work overnight and he got that to keep me company (I am afraid of the dark sometimes). Pua the Pig was my favorite character in Moana, so he got it for me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I like to cuddle with it…I may be 47, but I’m very in touch with my inner child.
For Kaye Who Sees Everything—this painting was a Christmas gift to me from my friend Judith Nagib, who was in the Pencils! Writing Workshop I ran down in Norwalk from 2003-2009.
Uranus, by dear friend and mentor Do’An. It was the first piece of “real” art I ever owned, and when I look at it, I think of our great times together at Burlington College and how much he taught me about writing—and life.
This painting, by artist Heather Gleason, is untitled, but has an uncanny story. She was painting it at around the same time I was writing my novelette This Poisoned Ground, and it’s incredible how the painting describes what’s happening in the story. Talk about a fine example of the collective unconscious at work (no, we didn’t know each other at the time). You can check out Heather Gleason’s artwork here: http://myeclecticmind.com/