Monday, January 9, 2012

...twisters, hurricanes and twists of fate

It's not a road trip without Waffle House.

Love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary.
The insistence on always having what you want, 
on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is "getting", and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. 

Merton, Thomas. Love and Living

A taker and a giver do not a couple make,
because "giving in" is not the same thing as "giving".
Your Mother

We are back in San Francisco. Bill is busy treating patients this morning. We have driven over 4500 miles since we flew south in mid-December. While there, we collected my clothes and a few stored items, loaded them in my 1997 Ford Explorer, Dora, and began our circuitous journey. Dora just plain fits. We buried Bill’s beloved Aunt Dora while in Georgia. My granddaughter Ciara loves Dora the Explorer cartoons. And Bill’s office is on Dora Street. We hit every compass point along the way in this newly christened old car. Reunions were brief - mostly drive-by huggings - but sweet. The vistas - some familiar, others new - swept past us at sixty-five miles per hour. Dora likes this speed best.
Last night we watched the sun set between the spires of the Golden Gate...a beautiful welcome home. We unpacked completely for the first time in three weeks. The car, that is. The bags are sitting in front of me at the moment.
I had planned to go through boxes that are stored in Birmingham and select items to bring here. The four days allotted for that segment became one. I stood in front of the open warehouse door that afternoon and stared at large armoires, chests, and chairs carefully stacked. The boxes were behind them. And underneath. A heaviness settled over me as I stood there. The energy to shift, sift, sort and re-stack seemed too great. Time could be better spent with family and friends before we made the long trip west. I chose wisely, I think: we closed the door and left, locked and un-loaded.

The healing has just begun: pockets of destruction remain
as do scars, within and without
The next morning, a touching encounter: I spoke with Urvi, the young lady behind the hotel desk in Tuscaloosa. I told her that this was our first visit since the devastating tornadoes last April. Eight months later, former neighborhoods are a mix of new construction and empty lots. In some areas, debris remains stacked by the road. I couldn’t recognize where I was at times because blocks of once-wooded land now stands barren. The church where my granddaughter attended daycare was swept away in the storm. Not even a foundation remained.

Then Urvi told her story. She was with her parents that afternoon in the motel they own. They huddled in their apartment behind the office as the giant twister took half of the building. Suddenly the roof above them disappeared. Urvi, terrified, looked up into the center of the monster. Inside the funnel, she saw only white, a bright white light that she saw as the throne of God...with this, calm. But the fear returned after the storm passed. For two nights she couldn’t sleep. Then she began - as so many did - to volunteer. While she carried water and food to the hardest hit areas, peace returned. And sleep. But she watches the skies now. Her parents have rebuilt. Their motel, which once had forty-eight units, now has twenty-seven. 

We visited briefly with friends whose heavily wooded lot is not...wooded, that is, anymore....not since that April day. As we drove south, the tornado damage merged with the remnants of Hurricane Katrina. The casinos of Biloxi have been rebuilt and large new homes now stand in place of those washed or blown away. But Gulfport is deeply scarred. The gracious old southern homes and the large oaks that lined the coast road are gone. We drove past block after block of sidewalks and driveways that lead to empty lots, a cultural loss that can only be grieved, not replaced with new buildings.

Beach Road, Gulfport, 2012...almost seven years later

 But the beaches have healed. 
Nature is mindless of man.

Gulfport, Mississippi January 2012

New Orleans, Super Bowl morning
No crowds, not even the usual number of people on the streets

In New Orleans, tourists are returning. But the 9th Ward and other hard-hit areas have not been touched. We spent three hours in the city for a walk and Brennan's, a treat after miles of interstate food.

Through Louisiana, then Texas, reminders of the transient nature of places and people and things surrounded us. We stopped to stretch and walk beside I-10 in Texas one afternoon in the detritus of what was last promoted as a ghost town, n
ot a victim to natural disaster but to changing times and economies. The tours no longer exist and even the ghosts appear to have moved on. While we traveled, we thought of the people who have passed through and out of our lives. We are now caregivers to those who once nurtured challenges, uncharted territory.

Kent, more

Across Arizona
Back in California...Palm Springs, Santa Barbara beach art, San Luis Obispo
Text in the sand:
"Reality Check"
When the last bird has taken flight,
The last fish taken from the last ocean,
The last tree cut down...
Only then "we" will know [that]
"we" can't eat money.
Finally HOME to Marina Bay

Now I unpack the rest. 
First I'll hang this much-loved art that made the trek to California via Italy. This framed paper casting was made in Venice by an artist whose shop my daughter and I visited. Adrienne returned after I left Italy, bought this beautiful piece for me, lugged it through several countries and across the ocean. The delicate paper art arrived in pristine condition. When I look at it, I remember the sweet miraculous moments when I held my babies: the smell of baby powder, their heat against me. Fleeting, really. Roots and wings...that’s the deal. Otherwise the miracle would smother.

Every day is homecoming, an interior work...
a move toward integration and authenticity. The journey insists that I be decreased in order to increase. But out of the shattering comes wholeness...the blessings of brokenness redux. So here's to new beginnings, new friends, and to a greater appreciation of all my relationships whatever their duration: I am richer for what has gone before.


Recovering Church Lady said...

What a truly beautiful post. I am new to you, I came here because you are my newest Follower, thank you. I do not know your story but this post gives me a taste and I look forward to reading more!

Celeste said...

I love the ether-hood. Bumped into you via "writepurpose", read several of your posts. We found each other! Raised Southern Baptist in the deep south, I can identify with your story. Look forward to future encounters as well!

Jeannette said...

Rich in the full powder memories and art work...and the art of lives who pick up after any one of the many ways reshaping the parameters can come to us. You may have left your storage packed but you certainly are unpacking the tenderness of the time generously.