Hurricane days are surreal and out of the routine. You can read about how Isaac messed with my routines here. You spend a lot of time listening to the wind, or to the little AM radio. Or peeking out the slats in the shutters being amazed at how the trees are bent sideways when it gusts. And then you nap because you didn’t sleep so well.
Once the hurricane passes there’s a lot of cleanup to do. Thankfully, our cleanup didn’t include any house damage or water damage. Our electrician friend came over and reattached the line that had come off the house, so we’d be ready when the power came back on. We un-boarded the house and gathered or chopped up the fallen banana trees, the jasmine arch, the palm tree out back, and countless other small trees, branches, pine cones, leaves, etc. We re-hung the porch swing and the wind chimes.
Before the storm, I put some special bread on the porch from a St. Joseph’s Day altar. The belief is that if you throw bread blessed from a St. Joseph’s Day altar out into a storm, it will calm the storm and protect your home. Why not? The little twist of bread was still on the porch when the storm passed, and our house wasn’t damaged so hey, I guess it worked!
Part of the surreal-ness of hurricane days is appreciating all the little things that you usually take for granted. Like stores that are open – here, our neighborhood bar…
Everyone is out and about, asking each other how they fared. People are extra friendly – kind of like at holiday time. While it can get exasperating waiting for the power or the cable or waiting in line at the store for ice, people are generally in good spirits, even when they’re missing a part of their roof, or all the pretty sunflowers lining their porch are gone, or a tree fell on their car.
Disasters bring out a spirit of community – neighbors helping neighbors, people visiting outside because it’s too hot to be inside, and businesses offering special treats. One restaurant offered to cook your meat if you brought it to them rather than let it languish in the freezer, Whole Foods gave away salad greens rather than letting them spoil, and the Aquarium provided free admission so families could relax in the air conditioning amidst schools of tranquil fish.
I’d rather not have hurricane days because they bring a lot of loss – of possessions, beautiful trees, income, houses, signs, structures — but it seems that when they come New Orleanians do our best to find some bright spots and carry on.