I spent the last week on “vacation” visiting relatives near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If you’re thinking “Outer banks, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard that recently?” That’s right, the Outer banks was where hurricane Irene made landfall early, early Saturday morning.
After a day of boarding up houses, taking down porch swings, relocating porch plants to a card table in the living room, and driving cars and trucks to higher ground, you would have thought I’d sleep like a baby. But as the wind howled outside my window and the power flickered the air conditioning on and off, I couldn’t sleep. In my near dreaming delirium, I half expected waves of floodwater to crash through my windows at any moment. When I finally slept, it was short lived.
Although I had been excited for the adventure, I have to admit I was pretty scared when I took that first dark step into the front yard water, debris and downed tree limbs floating by, the propane tank bobbing in the waves. Once I reached the safe (and higher) haven of my relative’s home next door, there was nothing much left for me to do but dry off and wait.
Wait and hope and pray that the tidewaters would stop their threatening surge. That the howling and the wind and the waves crashing on the doorstep (ocean waves on the doorstep?!) would recede. That the salty water wouldn’t seep into my cousin’s home, destroying floors and carpets, refrigerators and valuables.
In the midst of the waiting and the hoping and praying, God doled out another unwarranted fit of compassion. Because in addition to wind and waves and fear, that day, in the eye of the hurricane, I experienced peace, rest, and the richness of time spent with family.
The rising tide meant we couldn’t go anywhere. I was trapped. Trapped with my wonderful family, including my new favorite human being: my cousin’s baby boy, Macon. (see left and tell me you don’t agree) Poor me.
In addition to babbling baby time, I also had time to rest. To rest and reflect and spend time in prayer. To dream and scheme and breathe.
And while I was journaling and reflecting, I was able to connect with my cousin’s grandmother (my cousin’s grandmother on the other side, so no direct relation to me). She saw me reading and journaling, and asked if I was writing my prayers, which I was. From there we bonded over our love of words and writing, of putting our thoughts and hopes and dreams on paper. She read me poems she’d written for her grandchildren and spoke to me of the lessons she’s still learning as a great grandmother and daughter of God. She read me notes of encouragement and spoke words of love and affirmation into my own life.
I don’t know how to write about her without sounding too cheesy or sweet, but there really is no other way to describe the day and the time spent with her as sweet, filling, and life-giving in a way I can’t explain. It was yellow cake and chocolate frosting (which we ate later that day in celebration of surviving the hurricane) good.
As the eye of the hurricane moved closer, calming the swaying trees and lulling the misplaced tide, I was reminded of the line in my favorite T.S. Eliot poem that says, “So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
In the darkness of the storm and the stillness of the day indoors, my heart was dancing.
*Below are a few pics taken from the day of the storm. Also, I am very thankful to report that despite some minor damages to my cousin’s house–her air conditioning and water pump were broken, her husband’s truck flooded–none of my many, many family members in down east North Carolina had floodwater enter their homes.
My cousin Mollie’s husband, Matt, forging the floodwaters.
The water rising in the garage–and the boots that would have served me much better than my nice flats for an early morning dip in the ocean.
The steeple of my family’s church that was knocked down in the storm.
A tree uprooted in the storm.