Monday, October 17, 2005

A calm before the (next) storm

Let not a flood of waters overflow me,
Nor let the deep swallow me up,
Nor let the pit shut her mouth upon me.

Psalm 69:15
As Tropical Storm Wilma gathers strength in the Caribbean and takes aim at -- of course -- the U.S. Gulf Coast, it's starting to feel a little like a slasher movie. This monster just won't die.

At the moment, anything is possible once Wilma slithers into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. She could skulk toward Texas or sneak up on the Florida Panhandle ... or just slice head-on into the soft underbelly of Gulf Coast at New Orleans and Mississippi, again.

When I first came to Southeast Texas, people were surprisingly sanguine about the threat of hurricanes. Maybe it's because it had been almost 20 years since a hurricane hit here. They oozed a certain resignation to the inevitability of a catastrophe, saying such things as "That's what insurance is for" and "It's only a house." Indeed, now that Rita has slit us from crotch to collarbone, my neighbors (some of whom are not even insured) simply set themselves to the task of rebuilding and restoring their homes and their lives the best they can. TV shines its light on a few people whining that FEMA and the Red Cross and the church on the corner and the people who sell groceries and all the ships at sea have somehow betrayed them, but for the most part, I see people making their own remedies.

But I wonder, as we closely watch the prowling Wilma, if anyone is still as sanguine. As I picked up some broken shingles, glass shards and fallen branches in my backyard this morning, I wondered: Should I just leave them until Wilma passes ... or maybe longer, until after the hurricane season has gone into hibernation at the end of November? Should I just leave the fences on the ground rather than replace a brand-new fence after the next storm? Or should I simply surrender -- like my friends and neighbors -- to the inevitability of hurricanes and deductibles and turbulence of all kinds ... and live as well as possible in between?

Aw, hell, it's only a house.


Brian Leon said...

But it is never just “only a house” is it? It is a building that is true but it represents much more. It is the embodiment of dreams for so many families; it represents the sacrifices made to realise the dream; it where memories both fair and foul have their roots. It is the shelter that protects us and comforts us.

That why people always come back home for the holidays. It is why the word “home” has a strong pull on our emotions. That is why people always rebuild after the storm in the same location. People need something to come back to and while they may not come back to a house, they will always come home.

Bryan said...

The problem is that if you don't clean up the debris it will come back to bite if you get hit again.

Dennis was annoying when compared to Ivan, but the FEMA screw-ups that prevented the local governments from completing the disposal of the debris from Ivan created a problem during Dennis, providing flying debris for the winds.

You have to clean it up as fast as possible, and hope you don't get hit until you're done.