A Lady Laments About... The Storm Of The Century
by Jennifer Philo
I have a memory starring me and my kids. It's a beautiful, sunny, early Spring day - too early to discard a jacket, yet warm enough to sport a classic pair of worn out sandals. A cool, continuous breeze ruffles my broomstick styled skirt, prompting my head to fall back, my arms to outstretch and my eyes to close. Embracing this baptism by Mother Earth, a slow smile creeps across my face. I welcome this feeling of ecstasy by mouthing various incantations, partly due in recognition, but largely due to my want for more. My need for more. Being hugged by the elements is a feeling so pure your soul pleads for more. As if in response to either my prayers or my desperation, She complies and the breeze doesn't stop. The kids partake by spontaneous outbursts of spinning and begging to retrieve our much beloved kite. This blessing is rare. It's a blessing that leaves you longing for more days like this one. Carefree afternoons in which we actually have a chance to play with the unseen; to befriend the wind and wait for its return.
Fast forward two years where a new memory is born. The kids and I sit around the dining table; eyes closed, hands clutching, and heads in a silent bow. Our circle of prayer is witnessed by a stick of burning sage, a snow-white illuminated candle and a blanket of darkness. The wind outside serenades our vigil with sudden gusts violently crashing into the windows. We all look out the the thin glass, now speckled with rain and bits of pine needles, waiting for a sign that Her wrath has subsided. We are asking for stillness. We are urging Her to silence the terrifying wind, to let the trees return to their upright positions and pray that their roots are strong enough to hold.
My friends, what came through our humble little state was one of the worst storms Vermont has ever seen. Following erratic paths like a tornado and supplying wind gusts like a hurricane, local meteorologists were trying to make sense of what we were experiencing. The six to eight hour ordeal was originally forecast as a Noreaster and most of us turned in the night before expecting to wake up to a blanket of fresh snow. Matt and I woke to a blinking alarm clock and flickering lights; the power not knowing if it should allow us to shower or not. It was only after the lightning quick showers and waking the children did we notice what caused our power to be interrupted. The trees were bending in the backyard; just like a bow being pulled to accommodate an arrow. The dog was frantically trying to chase uncatchable leaves, whining as though we were depriving him of the ultimate capture. Continuing with our normal morning routine, we left the house and made a mad dash for the car, side stepping downed branches and being pelted with the cold, hard rain. After safely reaching the car, I exhaled and watched in awe as the trees continued their graceful dance.
Exiting the driveway, the road ahead was littered with similar debris; pine needles, branches and leaves stretched as far as the eye could see. To our left, my neighbors mailbox was the first of many casualties we would see that day. In some fantastic dramatic style, it lay down pointing at its assailant; a large branch that had plunged to its own death from a massive oak tree. Looking up at the menacing oak, I prayed aloud to any deity who was within earshot. "Spare our home, I beg of you...." The ride was electrified with our thoughts and wonderment. The kids stared out their respective windows and I tuned the radio in hopes of finding any news on what we were experiencing. Daycare provided temporary relief from the silence and we anticipated what work would hold when we arrived.
Wind and water, earth and fire - elements that when tamed can nurture and provide. Adding comfort and warmth to homes, stability for our foundations and water for our bodies, these elements when respected simplify our lives. But outside of our controlled environments, these elements can cause mass devastation; floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes - leaving a wake of death and destruction in its path. Arriving at work, we cursed the elements. Scattered through our parking lot lay parts to storage sheds, turned over wheelbarrows and signage ripped from their posts. Fighting the wind that could knock a grown man to his feet, we gathered what we could find strewn across the parking lot, trying to make this impromptu clean up part of the daily routine.
It didn't stop there. The wind continued to rattle our aging store, lights and computers flickering on and off, the roof close to losing its corrugated protection. The heavy commercial doors slammed repeatedly, unable to halt the suction from the wind. Within an hour I was en route to daycare, now closing due to a power outage. Braving the drive again, I set off to collect my children. A mile into my journey, traffic ceased to move. Power lines were down, trees uprooted lay across countless roads preventing many from coming or going. After re-routing, the seriousness of the situation became quite apparent. The radio insisted that people stay home and off the roads. Arriving at daycare I caught my breath; not two houses away from its kid friendly yard lie a giant pine tree straight across my road home.
The wind died down approximately eight hours later, but enduring the aftermath of this weather phenomenon lasted well over a week. Trees from counties across Vermont were uprooted. Many homes were spared, though some were not as fortunate. Power lines lay destroyed, delaying any progress to return heat and electricity to countless homes. Miraculously, no one was hurt. Not a scratch on anyone was blamed on the storm. Spirits were up, people reached out to help those who needed, and our county praised the power companies and state departments for their ongoings efforts in attempt to return to normalcy.
Noraccane. That's what our meteorologists claimed we had experienced. A noreaster/ hurricane, bringing no snow as expected but instead wind gusts that reached a staggering 80 mph. Through fumbled explanations concerning warm and cold fronts, we accepted what we were told. Well, at least a little. I've since gone to my yard, arms outstretched, head back and eyes closed, respectively thanking the Gods and Goddesses. Our houses still stand, our children are alright and the wood stove will be sufficiently fed with remnants of pines and box elders. Valuable lessons are learned everyday and this storm was no exception. We learned what helping others truly means, we learned that we take for granted the "basics" that many countries still are without, and we learned that Gaia, when talking, needs to be heard. I can't speak for the masses, but you can bet that I'm listening.