Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Surviving Hurricane Harvey Day Four

Surviving Harvey Day Four

Appearance by the Sun 4:30 pm . . . 

We awoke with sunrise after a quiet, inauspicious night.  As I made my way to check windows & doors, my bare feet hit wet cloth in an unexpected patch of flooring in front of the back door.

Everything around the patch was dry – there was nothing in the spots I had been monitoring.  I search for the source of the damp cloth only to spot evidence of mildew & water damage in the downstairs hallway next to the door.

My calm & focus faltered & I could feel panic & anxiety intrude.

So, I messaged my sweet friend Jayne Pride, owner of a roofing company, & asked if she had any plastic sheeting.  She found some in her garage & brought it over, along with two bottles of Starbucks’ Frappuccino.
Jayne examined the water damage & determined that it was not new.  She checked out the roof over the area & said Your roof looks good, the siding looks good.  Maybe this damage was caused by the upstairs bathroom.

She left the enormous box of wide plastic sheeting, just in case.

Our day passed watching the local & national coverage, carefully avoiding the coverage of the Apricot in Chief’s arrival in Texas.   Jean watched Spiderman instead.

As I watch the outpouring of generosity & human kindness within our region & coming from across the country, I realize we are witnessing the very finest instincts of humanity.  The differences & prejudices & stubbornness that causes us to fear the Other have been usurped & replaced about what truly unites us – we are all, each of us, in this world together. 

It is the erasure of those divisions, too often learned & perpetuatedfrom one generation to another, that will allow us to survive this crisis & this tenacious storm. 
When Harvey & his remnant storm minions dissipate, our focus will eventually move from rescue to restoration & rebuilding.  

We will emerge stronger, wiser & humbled.

In this tragic moment, our shared humanity transcends race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political differences & culture. 

If we, as Texans, Americans & global citizens, retain anything from Harvey and his havoc, I hope it is this shared humanity, generosity, compassion & love for our fellow pilgrims in life.

It has been said that Texas is a state of mind. 

True, but Texas is so much more than an attitude.

Although it pains my left leanings to paraphrase Senator John Cornyn, - Texas is not just a place where we are born or where we choose to live.  It is family & connection & a stubborn resilience.

As I witness & experience ordinary people reach out to those familiar & Other, I think:

This is Texas.  This is how we roll.

This is the tenacity & resourcefulness of the human spirit.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Surviving Hurricane Harvey Day Three

After a quiet night, Jean & I awoke at sunrise this morning to another of Harvey’s lulls.  No rain, no water in the street, no pesky, annoying leaks dribbling drops of Harvey’s wrath on the floor.

As I wandered around checking doors & floors & windows, I tried to remember how many chocolate covered mini-Kit Kat’s bars I will need to make the border surrounding my annual gingerbread house.

Embarrassed by the distraction, when so many are frightened & suffering & still in need of rescue. 

I am planning a fucking gingerbread house.  In August.  In the middle of a crisis.  Who & what am I ?

I started a load of laundry, grateful for the power to make that happen.  Yesterday I washed Jean’s hair.  Consumed by this seemingly mundane & ordinary act of a shampoo, Harvey still hovered on the edge of my consciousness.

When I signed on to my computer early this morning, I casually spent time chatting with my dear friend Susie from the El Paso days.  She lives in Israel & although she & her family face a different kind of threat on a daily basis, was checking in on Jean & me.

My amazing friend Marianna Steel in Colorado, knowing that I take a respite from social media on weekends, posted that it was too unusual not to see me post on a Monday morning & I needed to check in.

It is in moments like these, that I am grateful for the reconnects & new connections I have made on FB.

Throughout most of the day, the rain was absent.  Local stores were open for a few hours.  Sam’s Club suspended membership requirements.   People were able to get gas.  No one ordered us to evacuate.

Small moments, small pockets of relief.

Eventually, Harvey, the always returning bad / bastard of a boyfriend, got bored & dropped more rain.  The street in front of the house that Jack & Jean built remained passable, the water flowing down toward the drainage sewers. 

I did more mundane, ordinary tasks.  Folding laundry, washing dishes, putting together chicken & rice soup.  Always aware how incredibly blessed & lucky I was to be able to complete those tasks.

As I prepared the soup, I decided I needed fresh thyme.  My thyme patch is located in what was once the square foot vegetable garden against the back-yard fence. 

I was serious about the need for fresh thyme in the soup.

My search for my one & only pair of cowboy boots, given to me by my eldest son’s very French father, was in vain.  So, I grabbed a pair of ancient Nikes sans laces to walk across the yard for thyme.

Wondering if the socks I put on would get wet.

The yard, after days of rain, was surprisingly sock friendly.  

I saw a few pockets of waterlogged areas near the back fence, but my socks & I emerged from the adventure with three perfect stems of fresh thyme.

Mundane, insignificant moments that I have learned to treasure throughout my journey with Jean.  No wet socks, no sloshing through a small lake, fresh thyme.

Even as I write, I wonder & remember that these moments are a gift.

Especially now.  Knowing how so many are experiencing a very different moment.  Trying to remember, wishing for, a similar gift.

And, because I must truly be shallow at the core, remembered that I calculated I will need seventy white chocolate covered Kit Kat mini bars for the border around my 2017 gingerbread house.

Surviving Hurricane Harvey Day Two

Fred, the most famous resident of Meadows Place, is alive & well during Harvey.  Photo by MP resident Lee Rex.

To paraphrase my friend Betsy DavisHarvey is like a bad boyfriend, the bastard just won't go away,

(Bastard is me talking, not Betsy.  Please don’t tell Jean.)

We woke up to rain & flooded streets here in Meadows Place.  But relatively unscathed, with power.  The AT&T DirectTV cable goes out intermittently (I am convinced the satellite houses a poltergeist with multiple personalities), but I held on to our beleaguered rabbit ears so that we can keep abreast of current conditions.

The city of Meadows Place recommended taking shelter in place (as if we had a choice – the entrances & exits to our fair haven are impassable).  Many city streets are flooded, some homes without power.  The city will answer only life-threatening emergency calls. 

After a bit, the rain stopped & the water stopped rising in the street.  All part of Harvey’s deceptive strategy – seducing us into a false sense of relief & security.

Only to begin a few hours later, to replenish the now slowly receding water levels.

Most of our afternoon has been rainless.  The water in front of our house flowed down into the storm sewers.

And now, fifteen minutes after three, it has begun again.  The satellite has, of course, lost its signal.  It is not a drizzle, but a firm I’m back & I am not done with you yet from our unwelcome visitor, the reappearing bastard boyfriend.

As I watch the news, I am humbled by how incredibly lucky we are here in the house that Jack & Jean built.  People are still hunkered down across Houston & its surrounding areas.  Families are waiting in their attics & on their roofs to be rescued.  Families frantically trying to save a lifetime of possessions, families walking away from it all through the rising waters.

And my biggest concern this afternoon was revising my future hurricane preparedness list:  sweet pickle relish, oranges to make juice, bags of mulch to substitute for sandbags.  A bag of onions.  More bananas.  Extra hand sanitizer.  Bleach.  Jelly Belly size jelly beans.

As the day comes to a close, the rain & the threat of flooding continues.  As do the rescue efforts.  

I went out earlier to see if the accumulated street water was draining & watched as a neighbor across the street went to check on our 83-year old neighbor Mr. Bob, who lives alone & is in frail health.  Mr. Bob has family nearby, but it may be impossible for them to get into our little hamlet or out of their own hood to check on him.

Across the area, neighbors are checking on neighbors, sharing resources, driving from unaffected small towns into flooded areas with their boats to help people out of flooded homes.  Offering a place to stay, paying for a desperate stranger’s gas, finding formula for a mother who miscalculated what she would need for her infant.  Taking food & supplies to shelters.  Comforting someone else’s children in a shelter while your own sleep a few feet away.

The headline in the New York Times online this evening reads: 

With all due respect to & for the NYT, I don’t think the city, its environs or its residents have been plunged into utter chaos.  

I see that sense of togetherness & generosity in the local coverage.  I see it in our Meadows Place Facebook group. 

I see it gazing across the street from the house that Jack & Jean built.

Meanwhile, meeting Fred is on my bucket list.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Surviving Hurricane Harvey, Day One

Day 1 of Harvey

This morning my phone woke me up to inform me that there were tornado warnings for our area until 1:30 am.

Not a calming or reassuring way for Jaki Jean to start Day 1 of Harvey’s visit to the Lone Star State.

Tornadoes frighten me more than hurricanes, more than tropical storms, more than the promised flooding.

While I have survived hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding & hiking the Grand Canyon, I have never experienced a tornado.

Inexplicably, my lack of experience does not matter.  It does not dampen my fear & anxiety.

I blame my childhood in Dallas & the memory of multiple funnel clouds on the horizon.  And the indoctrination we received on what to do while walking home from elementary school during a tornado.

When we weren’t kneeling against inside walls, covering our heads with our arms in case of an attack by the bomb carrying enemy without a name.

That, & my sister Janet's dream. 

It is a story my mother loved to recall over the years.

The morning Janet announced that the night before, she dreamed she blew out a tornado.

NOTHING that powerful or self-affirming ever happened in my technicolor, vivid, well-scripted dream narratives.  EVER.

What the hell would I do if confronted with a tornado – in my dreams, in my mind, in reality?

I gave up trying to write a plan for such a confrontation years ago – I would simple hunker down in a bathroom & pray.  In any venue envisioned.

My first response early this morning, after realizing that the tornado watch was almost over was that I should have bought a bag of onions & more canned tomatoes.

To make a pot of beans.

Somewhere in my memory is written that with the makings for a pot of beans, one is prepared.  For anything.

All the water in the street in front of the house that Jack & Jean built had drained before the sun arrived today.  Not that we ever actually saw the sun itself – just its beams of light defiantly piercing the layer of dark clouds hovering over us
In the early hours of this morning, I knew that my corner of the world that is Texas was not in peril.  None of the local affiliates had interrupted scheduled programming were covering the horrors of Harvey.

So I turned to MSNBC.

I learned some fascinating geographical facts from MSNBC.  First, the tornado that wrecked destruction over 50 homes in a community near Missouri City, located 30 miles from Houston.

Because this geographical fact was in direct conflict with personal experience & existing facts, I was puzzled.

For most of my forty six years in the area, I have traveled through neighboring Stafford & Missouri City to Houston.   It did not feel like a 30 mile trek.

(Of course, part of me still believes I can get from any point in Houston to another point in Houston in 15 minutes . . . I have always been a bit delusional.)

So I did what any puzzled researcher would do & googled how far Missouri City was from Houston. 

The fifty homes were located in Sienna Plantation, that, according to the Internet, is a census-designated place and master-planned community located in Missouri City, mostly in its extraterritorial jurisdiction, within Fort Bend County, Texas.

I also learned that the commute from Sienna Plantation into central Houston is indeed approximately a bit less than 30 miles taking the Fort Bend Tollway.

So, I acknowledge my initial assessment of MSNBC’s geographical fact was extremely flawed & influenced by the fact that no resident of the greater Houston area believes anyone outside the state knows how much geographical space we occupy.

However, I do not believe, even by Texan standards of distance, that Bolivar Peninsula, 300 miles from Padre Island, is a “bit” north of Corpus Christi.

As this day of respite from the storm known as Harvey progressed, I managed to make trips for more applesauce (required for Jean to take her meds), canned soup I did not need, fruit, bread (for the vast amount of peanut butter in the pantry), toilet paper I most certainly did not need, Ghiradelli mini dark chocolate bars (a bigger necessity for Jean than applesauce) & after a discussion with my dear friend Muriel, a secret stash of Fritos & bean dip.

It is now 10 pm.  A hour earlier, wind & rain were the dance of the moment.  The house that Jean & Jack built leaked where it always leaks during a heavy rain storm.  Our street looked like a determined, quiet river headed for the storm drains.

Now the street is clear, the flash flood & tornado warnings are in effect.  Jean is still watching the Texans game.  I do not like the post from our little city to take cover if we hear a siren.

I cannot blow out a tornado.