“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.
Hurricane Irma brought that through-the-looking-glass experience to our world last week. In addition to the ongoing warnings, the startling alarm sounds coming through the cell phone, and the sense of panic-preparing that defined all our activities, there was the feel of the air. So strange. So otherworldly and curious.
I sat on my porch and looked at the trees, as I often do, the day before, in a near perfect calm. I was outdoors painting fabric and engaged in normal artmaking activities. Then it began to change. Grey, of course. But full of energy and activity. The rains were intermittent as we experienced them – before the storm hit—as the outer bands. The nighttime hit of the storm at our house was unnerving. It felt like being cast in a rough sea in a little boat, engulfed by something uncontrollable and big. The night felt long. By the next morning, as rains receded and I could venture again to the porch, the air and the trees were still alive. The energy still filled the air. The same framed view of the front yard now depicted a different world. The sense of uncontrollable chaos. There was the horror movie sound-effect whooshing of wind. What looked like it should feel cold felt warm.
Within hours the framed scene from the porch had transformed back to its pre-storm view. And the air itself had changed. Cleaned. Transformed by the experience? Certainly the ground was transformed, as we cave creatures emerged to begin the work of clean-up.
The gift of this close call has allowed me the luxury of introspection. Some hours of yard work and some days without electricity are barely worthy of mention when other places experienced this same storm as a life-shattering monster. We find ourselves echoing the words said by most of our neighbors: “it could have been much worse.”
But there is plenty of fuel for speculation and curiosity. How capricious a storm is! How transforming of our reality it is. How a storm outside our physical walls seems to have the capacity to change our inner selves as well. How oddly beautiful it is.
So, as my guide this week of artmaking, I want to hold onto gratefulness for safety while also holding onto the wonderment of this strange and powerful event.