Tears of Sheer Magnitude: On Superstorm Sandy

On the way to school, as I listened to the CBC report on destruction from Superstorm Sandy, I couldn’t keep back the tears.

“Are you crying, Mommy?” Eliana asked. 

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because the storm is just incredible,” I said.

“Why are you crying because it’s incredible?”

For one of the first times in my life, I couldn’t find the best words to explain. I tried, but I couldn’t approximate the emotions washing over me in the wake of several days of storm coverage, after a night of ice blowing against my windows and my three children sleeping in my bed and on my floor just to keep us all close.

I couldn’t explain but I tried, how grateful I felt for the electricity and heat this morning. For our refrigerator full of food. For our warm clothes. For the extra blankets.

When I lived in New York, six blizzards pelted the streets and penned in parked cars along major thoroughfares. When I lived in Washington, D.C., then-mayor Marion Berry offered to dig his way out of a snowstorm with a spoon. I had to click my remote control again and again to find my car under the feet of snow.

Every summer, we delight in the surf and the sand of Bethany Beach, Delaware, where the shoreline may no longer exist. I lived in Maryland. I have driven across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge countless times. I know the streets of New York so well – but I have never seen them without light or people.

I told the kids this morning that my tears were in part caused by the awareness of how small we are, of how powerful Mother Nature and Mother Earth are, of how wise we would be to realize our humble place on the landscape. 

And how, after devastation, we have the resilience to pick up and continue on, to rebuild, to persevere. We are put in our place, humbled, silenced, awestruck and dumbstruck, and then we carefully, respectfully navigate our way out from the bunker to find a new path, a way to soldier on.

It’s a story of this immediate weather, yes, but it’s also a story of our lives. The undercurrent of meaning and correction that we weave in and out of all through our years.

They say there are no new stories, and they’re right. The old stories keep resonating because they contain good lessons that, in easy times, we tend to forget.

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