Friday, September 7, 2012

A Letter to Hurricane Isaac

Dear Isaac,

I suppose I should be glad that you are gone. You spent most of your time lurking at our threshold, weeping and moaning like some adolescent demigod. Your tantrum caused a good bit of damage to some of my neighbors in Louisiana and Mississippi, and that was ill-mannered of you. Nevertheless, I must confess that I was a little sorry to see you go, and that I will always remember you fondly.

You were my first hurricane as a resident of the Gulf Coast. If nothing else, you encouraged to learn the practical preparations one must make for days without electricity or water. Like any guest, you also helped me see my home in new ways. You introduced me to the bizarre festival that folks here seem to make of a coming hurricane: even as they board up windows or map evacuation routes, they laugh and joke, often gathering to endure the storm together.

You also showed me what a wonderful home I already have here: I had more invitations than I could accept to keep company during the storm, and on the days when school was cancelled, students came to my door--singly and in bands--to laugh and share the strange holiday with me.

Perhaps most importantly, as I waited for you to arrive, I felt that flash--I hardly know a better word for it--that flash of connection with times beyond my own. I have felt it in the moments before a brother boarded a plane to go to war, and I have felt it in the hours I once I spent carrying water from a river to a parched garden. I think I might feel it if I were to have a child. It is a being-outside-oneself, a sense that my own ache or ecstasy has been alive for millenia, or, to say it another way, that I am receiving some ancient, new, deeply human feeling.  The Sunday before you came I asked, for the first time in my life, "Is it time to abandon my home? Where can I go? What if it is not safe to stay?" One could tell the whole narrative of human history in these terms: who was driven from home by storm, disaster, invader, or ambition, who remained, and what become of them all?

You turned out to be a milquetoast tempest, but you were my tempest, bringing yet another glimpse of this brave new world that is my home. For that, I will always thank you.

Ever yours,


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