There is a natural rhythm to disasters.
First, the storm stuns us with unimagined force and we seek refuge in the safest room in the house. The screaming of the wind almost drowns out the sound of falling branches and the pounding of driven rain echoes on all sides of the house. When it seems like the rain has gone on forever, a tree falls on the house with a deafening crash. I hear my wife Gretchen screaming. Hurricane Isabel has delivered us an unexpected anniversary present and Gretchen was sitting right under the point of impact.
She is stunned and temporarily deafened by the explosion.
She rallies quickly and we start checking for damage. Every window is blocked by branches, but it appears that a giant oak now lies on the back of the house. We enter the kitchen to the sound of water pouring through the kitchen light fixtures and pooling on the floor. We seize buckets and I drill large holes in the kitchen ceiling in hopes that the sagging ceiling panels will not soften and crash down on us. We spend the next half hour emptying buckets and attempting to soak up the flood with every towel we can find. As the storm rages on, the power goes off and we retreat to a basement bedroom with our cats and fall asleep exhausted.
In the bright morning sunlight, we make our way out to see a hundred foot red oak lying across our back deck and over the roof of our house. Neighbors come by and one helps me to seal the largest hole in the roof with plywood. Later, our favorite tree service trims away part of the tree and relieves the pressure on the house. We are well into recovery mode by nightfall. The second day is filled with visits by contractors and an insurance adjuster.
A few weeks later, a tree segments stretch across the yard like a giant serpent chopped by an enchanted blade. Peace and quiet have returned. Gretchen photographs a butterfly drinking the sweet sap from the fallen forest giant. We drink our morning tea and enjoy a quiet moment discussing whether we should add skylights for the kitchen. We are ready for the next adventure. Life goes on.
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