The storm hits with a vengeance and though we are caught off-guard at first – disoriented, stuck, floundering – we do what we must to survive and to protect those we love.
Anticipating nature’s force once we learn to heed the warning signs, with experience we respond to challenges with efficiency: we set out our emergency candles and matches, our water bottles and food supplies; we hunker down and take shelter, huddling to keep warm, messaging friends to check on their whereabouts, avoiding downed power lines and icy roads, precisely as we have been instructed.
The city is silenced and we are clear in our vulnerability. We speak softly to soothe our little ones, we slow our breathing, we count our blessings.
In the far back corner of my yard I can make out at least one sizable trunk down, and perhaps another. I consider myself fortunate if that is all that I have to contend with.
Beyond a large expanse of bedroom window, my favorite tree is bent in half. It is normally a leafy wonder, a wild thing, a weedy overgrowth with no particular name that stands tall at thirty feet and spills over in exuberant foliage.
It is a happy attraction to birds for its berries. It offers a screen of year-round privacy in lieu of drapes. It is my companion, my source of music, my steadfast reminder of my appropriate smallness and also, my growth.
Many years ago another storm reduced its heft by half, while the limbs that split away never grew back, others – smaller – filled out the once gaping space.
As I look out my window this morning, the damage appears to be more severe. I think of beliefs that have been destroyed and others that have blossomed again. I think of what “bounces back” though we don’t anticipate such resilience. We cannot know what is temporarily bowed or irrevocably broken.
The heart takes its hits and we absorb them. The heart takes its hits and we are weary. The heart takes its hits and we are down for the count, but we pull ourselves up again.
The heart takes its hits and though it heals, we heal, we retain visceral memory of the scars that have been inflicted.
We may love, but do not breathe as deeply. We may trust, but only so far as a specified count of days. We may learn to run with our recyclable muscle and organ, but we take our strides slowly and we refuse to sprint.
We cannot understand the blind faith that is required to remarry – and we tell ourselves that loving should suffice.
We speak of moving on after loss, moving on after divorce, moving on after any minor or major devastation as if we can regroup, retrench, regrow whatever has been dwarfed or damaged or severed – regardless of how long the hits have continued.
We patch what we can and hope the bones will properly re-knit.
We compensate for capacities that are genuinely lost.
I marvel at friends who marry and divorce and marry again, brightly stepping into shiny, reconfigured futures. And I wish them the best.
I marvel at those whose wounds occur beyond the first blush of youth, yet before cynicism or pragmatism narrows their options.
I understand the optimism of those who perceive opportunities: hearts reopen, hands reach out, they believe in the power of starting over.
I am leery of those who do not respect the forces of nature. We each have our temperaments, we each navigate circumstances, we are not alone in living the mix of children and homes and memories and experiences.
Although there is a new view as I gaze out my window – I long for a sense of security, which I have so gingerly and so often reconstructed. I feel vulnerable without greenery as camouflage, noisy sparrows as confidantes, the soft whoosh of branches brushing against the glass.