This was the scene post-Irene: one Ent, still standing at its post a foot from our front porch, and leaves and branchlets littering the front yard. That's it. We were spared the wrath of nature. No power loss, roof damage, or flooded basement. This week, life seems suddenly very sweet and precious and good, in the most arbitrary of ways.
When you live in a century-old, freestanding wooden box with a five-story maple growing out from under it, you take Apocalyptic Hurricane Warnings (AHWs) seriously. Heck, our next-door neighbor nailed up plywood over his front windows. We opted for a strategy of cowering and watching lots of television. About 3 a.m. Sunday morning, when the AHWs ramped up from "tornado warning" to "tornado watch," I went a little nuts. Because (a) we have had a tornado touch down a block away, and (b) my fear of tornadoes is morbid, even by scared-of-scary-things standards. And thus did I do what I formerly sneered at: I packed a "Go Kit."
The "Go Kit" has been a long-standing joke in the Crazy Stable. Years ago, Spouse obtained one somewhere; it contains, among other ludicrous articles, a cheap rain poncho and a Band-Aid. Whereas I have always felt that the only Go Kit worth having would contain firearms and a lot of cash. Now, as the winds swooshed outside, I seriously contemplated what to take to the basement if we might emerge to a pile of boards and wet rubble. And what about rounding up the pets? After a direct hit; what do we do with two carriers stuffed full of four idiot cats? Ask FEMA for kitty litter?
I flung a few days' worth of clothes into a bag along with my camera, a flashlight, and some of the one zillion D batteries I'd scored on Saturday. I added my bedroom slippers, picturing myself in a shelter and comforted by their presence under my cot. Grabbed my few good rings; couldn't find my one good necklace. (Burglars, don't even bother.) Jammed in a zip-lock bag of important documents, including our passports so we could move to a less eventful country if need be. (How about Luxembourg? Nothing seems to happen there.)
But what about the other stuff I'd always thought I'd grab in the proverbial fire? Our wedding album? My box of family recipes? A few precious tchotchkes? Curiously, none seemed very important. I did tuck in my dad's old Latin/English Catholic missal, and his New Testament still lightly pencil-marked from his convert studies. And, as when I take a plane, I put his "miraculous medal" around my neck. Even from the next world, my dad makes me feel protected.
I insisted that Spouse and I take turns sleeping and keeping a vigil for tornado warnings. (This after an argument about whether Flatbush had secret tornado sirens.) One reporter, Tony Aiello, passed within blocks of our house in a live-TV van, which was strangely reassuring. As Irene's less-than-apocalyptic bluster became apparent, we both dozed off, awakening to a mere lashing rain storm followed by whipping winds and clearing skies. The Ent's massive trunk swayed like a ballerina's supple spine; the roots that torment my gardening efforts held fast. We were protected. No cat carriers, basement huddle, bottled water or D batteries needed.
Now, with the videos of heartbroken folks who lost everything, comes the mingled relief and unease. What if we hadn't gotten off lightly; would God be to blame? Or my dad, for not stepping up and interceding? How much could I lose, and still remain friends with the invisible force that gives and guides my life? The wedding album, the house, even the cats, okay, but what of those I love? These questions are even scarier than the $25,000 hurricane deductible that I discovered in our State Farm policy.
Now it's time to rake up branchlets. And to wonder again why faith isn't as easy as it is in Doctor Who. Click the clip to see how it ought to work.