By the time I post this brushstroke, Irene will be long-gone, only depositing rain and wind to the upper reaches of North America, but the drama of the past few days has left me reflective about dramatic storms.
I have lived in North Carolina for over 10 years now and have become aware of hurricanes in ways I never needed to be when living in New England. There’s something awful and scary about such storms, but part of me likes the drama and uncertainty of a hurricane. Their arrival seems to make the world stop, or at least slow down. (For example, not once in the past few days have I heard anything about the stock market or lousy economy.) As people prepare for the storms, they think of things like water and bread rather than IRA’s or ambitious career plans. Life becomes refreshingly basic.
But such storms also make me feel small, and that’s good too. Compared to a storm the size of Irene, I am tiny and have minuscule influence. To go down to Bald Head Island, where my cousin lives, and stand on the point on its beach as Irene passed through would be a vivid and startling reminder of nature’s mighty, and my tiny, power . In a world where we can sometimes get full of ourselves and think all things are within our grasp, storms like Irene (and the other kinds of hurricanes that enter our lives) can bring us to a humble appreciation for things far greater than ourselves.
But, lastly, what I appreciate the most about mighty storms is that eventually they end. Sometimes they pass quickly, other times they feel like they stall right over our heads, but the truth is that storms pass. Dark nights are met with a dawn. When I made it through my first hurricane, I remember the gloriously day that followed. All the humidity and debris in the air was gone, and we were given an amazingly bright and clear day. I also remember the first day I felt I could go on after my father died, as if I was given a bright new day.
I think, more than any other lesson from storms like Irene, this is the most important one. Yes, life will show up and force us to change our perspective and priorities to a very basic level. It will also remind us that we are not in charge of almost anything, but the grace comes in the end with a clear day when we can breath again. It doesn’t take away the wind or damage, but it offers us the promise of a new day, and for that I am profoundly grateful.
(Photo of the Bald Head Island Sky after Irene, taken by Sandy Bristol)