How amazing that just a little bit of inconvenience can provide a bit of necessary perspective.
Here we are now, 24 hours post-Hurricane Irene and the power is back on, new containers of ice cream are nestled in the freezer and the yard has been cleared of twigs and leaves. Many others up and down the Eastern Seaboard are not as lucky, having lost much more than a few groceries. Yes, I feel a little guilty tucking into a bowl of mint chip knowing others are sitting in the dark or worse.
A few blocks from us, a family worked feverishly Sunday afternoon to remove the tree that smashed through their roof. They had help sawing and lugging the tree limbs and tacking a tarp over the hole.
And they had an audience: Lots of folks from the neighborhood stopped to stare, mouths agape, at the damage. We stopped briefly, too, out on a driving tour of town to shake off what Basil calls “house-a-tosis.” (He suffers from this malady; Catherine and I would quite happily hole up in the house for days on end. But we humor him.)
Mostly, though, the storm brought as many Samaritans as spectators. We saw lots of folks helping sandbag, remove brush, offer food and shelter, share the names of good tree men, electricians and other necessary helpers. As soon as the wind began to die down, folks came out of their homes and helped each other assess the damage.
The demise of a tree next door gave us a quick and casual introduction to our new neighbors, first-time homeowners who moved in a mere week ago. They seem like nice folks, although not real thrilled to have such a loud welcome to the neighborhood. (And they may not soon recover from seeing the Vanech family in their pajamas.)
We had electricity much of the day, and I was feeling pretty smug about that. (Not as smug as I did during that March 2010, when I put a whole pot of taco soup in the Crock-Pot, only to have to dump it in the trash a few hours later. …)
But at almost 5 pm on the dot, our power went out, too. We sought refuge with my mother-in-law, who still had lights (and access to “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” — who knew she was a faithful fan?!). Down in the shops by the Old Greenwich, Conn., train station, there was an almost festive atmosphere. People gathered for dinner at the pub, stopped in for a cone at the ice-cream shop, went for a stroll in town.
Throughout the weekend and during the day today, I was struck, as I had been in the wake of other disasters, by the power of tragedy to bring people together. All that wind and rain forced us to engage in organic human interaction. We had to speak to each other rather than type out a conversation.
That Irene didn’t live up to her press is quite beside the point. She left a silver lining — a wonderful spirit of community and some fresh ties that bind.
It’s good to know we all weathered the storm together.