Savannah Morning News
Oct. 23, 2016
Note to self: before the next disaster, buy new batteries (but where do you recycle old batteries?) and assemble them all in one place, preferably near or in the flashlights. A sub-note: regularly change batteries on carbon monoxide detectors to avoid the screaming whine and the panic when the screech begins to sound, an embarrassing but harrowing moment (or hours).
Second note to self: do some research and find out how to disable generators (or people who run them 24/7; just kidding but c’mon, people: do the rest of us – your neighbors who will help you pick up branches, help you with anything – really need to listen to that piercing racket when all we’re trying to do is rake and regroup, stop to take a breath, look for important insurance papers and maybe catch a few negative ions too? There oughta be a law…).
Third note: remember to appreciate the fresh smell and beautiful rose hue of cedar without standing next to a giant tree snapped off angrily a few feet above the base as if it were a mere matchstick.
A few more things about the hurricane known as Matthew (other than survivor’s guilt, which some of us with near misses are left with): Raise your hand if you loved seeing kids in the streets because what else would they be doing with their time when the power goes bye-bye and all they can do is play catch, poke a stick, stand with their eyes closed against a tree, count to 10 and say, “Ready or not, here I come”? What else but ride their bikes, chase a bug or play piano (oh, the joy of being at someone’s house and hearing their son sit down and play a non-electrical instrument). They can get along without their screens! I saw it with my own eyes. They do know how to play with other kids. They can reach into their own brains and imagination instead of relying on something like “Minecraft.” This is encouraging.
What about the rest of us? Can we do the same when it’s so very dark without electricity or the moon? It took me a while to figure out what the people across the street were doing sitting in their cars, by themselves, with the windows rolled up, the engine idling. Ah ha! They were powering their phones; they were watching the vice presidential (yawn) debate. Me? My ancient car from way back in 1992 doesn’t have one of those “modern” plugs that power cell phones. I had to cruise around in a friend’s car – carbon footprint, be damned – all the time pretending to look at the damage, but in the process remembering the times my father and I would drive around to look at Christmas decorations in the neighborhood. Then I gathered a sock full of quarters and took my own vehicle to a carwash on Skidaway for a deep cleaning, inside and out. It was amazingly satisfying. So productive. A fresh new start.
The larger question is what do you do during this unsettling, unnerving, discomfiting time – and I use present tense because I’m not just talking about following, fretting, or deciding how to face a hurricane when I would rather stand on my roof to wave down the helicopters than join the masses on the highway, when everything in the country and the world seems to be in flux, when things fall apart, when the center cannot hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world (thank you William Butler Yates for that prescient poem evocating the apocalypse, written in 1919 after World War II), when burials cannot be completed because water has to be pumped out of the ground? What do you do? I don’t think that’s what Bob Dylan had in mind when he wrote and sang, “Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”
But it fits. Something is happening. Only it’s not about Mister Jones. It’s not about Hurricane Matthew. And it’s not about getting new batteries for all those hollow flashlights. We need a reboot, a restart, not another hurricane, not another Matthew – maybe a good stiff wind – not so I can clean out my fridge again (after two storms it’s looking pretty spare) but something to cleanse the air of the country. Is that possible? My friend Bill, who threads the needle pretty thin when he calls himself a cynical idealist, would probably say yes. Me? This week, in our stratified country, coming apart at the seams, getting uglier by the minute, I’m not so sure.