Hurricane Irma was coming straight for us. For days the forecast had narrowed until everything pointed to St. Petersburg. Strangely, having grown up here with my grandmother always saying this peninsula was protected by the Indians who left their mounds here, I felt like it would somehow turn, at the last moment, like it always had. That did not prevent me from boarding up my house, laying in water and food, planning to lose electricity, having two escape plans and knowing exactly how far away the shelter was. It seemed in those last days of preparing that time slowed to a crawl. And as the hours passed and the storm crept closer, people began to show their true natures. It reminded me of the nurse at the cancer ward who told me “now you will see who these people really are and it will surprise you. The ones you thought were nice may not be, people you thought little of will shine, people will turn away… cancer makes people real”. I think hurricanes do the same.
Family called, friends called. People thought I was crazy for staying. I thought about my mother’s saying, “If it’s your day to die and you hide under the bed, the bed will fall on you.”
It did turn… in those last hours and I worried for those people who at the last found it was coming for them. It came for all of Florida in one way or another.
After the storm, on that first evening, a spontaneous gathering of the folks who stayed on our block occurred on the street. Everyone emerged seemingly at the same time from their boarded up houses, laughing, chatting, sharing wine and stories. I looked around to see most houses still intact, trees down, everything scattered, yet the breeze was so cool, the light very special, people’s faces so warm, so kind. And I knew that this was a very special moment, one I would remember, and these neighbors were now much more to me. Nature had changed us. For a very short time the whole world was just our tiny block cut off by a big downed oak, the dogs running and playing in the street just as we did.
I don’t wait well, but life is really about waiting to see what happens. We do all we can but then we wait, and good or bad it never fails to surprise.
What did I do while I waited? I painted. The paintings are like the storm - calm and turbulent, sharp then soft, all movement - spiraling. Darkness amid striking light. Did the hurricane find it’s way into those canvases? How could it not? Certainly it occurred to me that over the last year I have been focused, almost obsessed, with the spiral, painting it over and over. I have been saying in this blog as I recorded events occurring that we are all a part of the spiral.
For a brief time the spiral was both outside and inside me. I stood on my porch and felt its power. And it was both beautiful and terrifying.
Meet me on the other side of the storm.
I hope this day finds you safe.