Thursday, November 01, 2012

Confessions of a Storm Flee-er

In college I loved the intense thunderstorms of Iowa. I relished the power, the electricity, the wind. Sophomore year, a late spring storm caused a tree to fall on my parked car and crushed poor Daisy Mae Jones like a beer can.

While I mourned that ’89 Chevy, I wasn’t angry at the weather. Far from it—I was 19 years old and passionate about passion itself. Those raw rolling storm systems mirrored something of my ex-holy roller cum theatre major’s dramatic spirituality.

Cut to 2012, and twice in the past two months, I have fled town to escape the energy and impact of a storm. When did I start running from the weather in search of calmer climates? So much changes in the intervening years.

When Hurricane Isaac slammed into the coast of Louisiana this summer, I was living an interstitial life in New Orleans’ Irish Channel. My partner and I had come to stay in the rickety “double barrel” shotgun house that her brother owned. While my bro-in-law served prison time upstate in Alexandria, we came from California to Louisiana to take care of his business—selling the house and paying outstanding taxes and bills to settle some of his accounts.

We were packing up the house in August when the air conditioner broke. The roof was leaking pitifully in a number of places. When we heard about Hurricane Isaac heading our way, we really didn’t think twice. We just piled our valuables, cats, and Oscar the wonder-chihuahua into a rental car and drove to Hattiesburg, Mississippi where we stayed with our favorite Methodist pastor friend for a week. During that week, the NOLA house was without electricity, parts of the ceiling leaked across the floor, and the overwhelming stank of putrified, cooked garbage seeped everywhere.

But it really wasn’t that bad. We certainly could have stayed, hunkered down in the dark heat with everyone else who wouldn’t think of abandoning their beloved city for such a wimpy tropical storm. But we wanted to leave.

My partner’s non-incarcerated brother lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and warmly welcomed us to stay with him as long as we needed. We had been enjoying the Delaware beach town for two weeks when words like “Frankenstorm” and “mandatory evacuation” were all a-buzz last week.

Chris, our brotherly benefactor, ranted on and on about the hype of media news outlets. Only a wimp would listen to the hype and actually leave town! Well, once again, we chose the scaredy-cat route that led right on out of town. We didn’t wait to see what would happen. We rented a car and drove all the way to Chicago last weekend to entirely bypass any possible stormy weather at all. A little extreme? Maybe.

Long before Sandy, with her enormous armspan, made landfall just north of Rehoboth Beach, we were so far out of the range of her impact that we could worry with the rest of the country and check in on the status of East Coast friends via Facebook. Dry, warm and toasty with midwesterners, I can’t help but notice how risk-averse I have become.

There was a time, a youthful one for sure, when I ran towards storms. An almost addictive rush was attendant to power, crisis, catastrophe of any sort. No longer.

Maybe I reached a crisis limit and am unable to take on more catastrophes. Perhaps this life is caught up in enough metaphorical storm gales that I’m tapped to deal with the literal ones.

With all of the active shaming we encountered, in both New Orleans and Rehoboth Beach, when admitting to a flight-plan, we might have given in to peer pressure. My bros-in-law have never, and would never, ditch their homes due to weather—if Hurricane Katrina wasn’t reason enough to leave Louisiana, nothing would be. They pride themselves in both a fearlessness and commitment to their hometowns. I admire both. And I know that I don’t have the luxury of their rootedness.

I do, however, have the luxury of a girlfriend with savings who can splurge on a rental car, and no commitments whatsoever to any place, anywhere. We are rootless—able to leave, and also susceptible to be blown by every (figurative and literal) wind that comes our way.

This isn’t a way to live: running from every storm. I want a hometown to be responsible to, a home with commitment, with obligations and entanglements. I want the fearlessness that comes from something, anything, sturdy to hold on to—roots placed firmly in soil that can stand firm in the wind. Lately, we blow along like tumbleweed—light from lack of anything to lose.

While getting a fly haircut at Chicago’s barbara&barbara yesterday, my partner in tumbling and storm running snagged a sweet sublet for the month of November. We will stay in Logan Square for one whole month. Even tumbleweed eventually catches upon a sturdy anchor—at least for a time.

To those folks who have had roots violently ripped out by Hurricane Sandy: we pray for your homes, sacred belongings, and your hearts. To coastal communities submerged or washed away: we pray for your healing and rebuilding. To all who feel uprooted and cast adrift: we pray for your endurance in the blustery nature of it all. (by Saunia Powell)

 

 

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