every storm has an end
|February 11, 2013||Posted by Mama under homestead, off-grid living|
They say that when you face death your life’s story flashes before your eyes. For a few seconds, which lasted a lifetime to me, I feared I might be facing the death of the one I love the most. I can’t think of a time when I felt more scared than I did Saturday morning at 6am, February 9, 2013.
Let me back up a couple days. Nemo, the storm of the century, was the convergence of two storms, one from the north and one from that south, that united over our home in New England. We watched the weather report each day that week and watched the swirling patterns draw ever closer, wondering what kind of blizzard this would turn out to be. We all know that so-called blizzards can turn out to be flurries and would-be tornadoes can turn out to be a good day to fly a kite, but the day before the nor’easter was due to hit, I stood on the step outside our porch, gazed up at the clear blue sky and thought how eery it appeared.
You look so beautiful right now, I thought. But it also had the feel of the calm before the storm. And for some reason I thought, this is it, we’re about to get it good and we’re not even close to being ready. I don’t know why I thought that. Our little camper and porch have faced horrible winds, tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, and lightning storms and yet it stood strong. But something was off, and I should have listened to my gut. Anything in hindsight, like they say.
The snow started during the night. Then the wind. Papa and I woke up around 4am, and by 4:30 Papa had taken his watch by the dining room window, debating what to do as he watched the porch shake, and the center, floating post that supported the roof lift up several inches every time we caught a gust of wind as it raced full tilt across the field. (If I haven’t clarified before, Papa built the porch to be completely separate from the camper, the two were up against each other, with insulation stuffed between the gaps).
By 5:30 Papa had begun bringing the more expensive things in from the porch, and just before 6am he decided to attempt to anchor down the roof better by using his come-along to attach the center post to the metal beam under the camper. With wind rocking the camper and porch, he lay on his back next the post and started working at his plan. I was feeding the kids breakfast at the table, trying to keep them distracted from the seriousness of the situation, when all of a sudden the most horrendous, groaning, smashing, breaking sounds of plywood, framing, and metal roofing hit my ears.
Thinking the roof had come down on top of Papa, I screamed out his name and rushed to the door, only to find it was stuck, and I thought he must be seriously injured and I couldn’t even get to him. Seconds afterward he swung the door open and stepped inside, completely unscathed. After I soothed the children from the shock of my screaming, Papa told his movie-like experience of watching the wind pull up the roof, the center post flying past him, and the whole roof and three walls being flung like a plaything across the yard. All that was left was most of the floor.
When Papa walked in I didn’t care about anything except that he was unharmed, but behind him I could see that the porch was gone, parts seemed to be missing, and it was smashed to pieces all over the backyard.
We couldn’t thoroughly evaluate the situation until sunrise, but when the sun did rise and we looked outside, it was so surreal. The wind was still whipping the snow around in 80 plus MPH wind, smashing up against the debris of our addition, and all of our belongings. Books, clothes, craft supplies, toys, music equipment and music sheets floating around, some half buried, strewn all over the place. The table was missing a leg, one arm on my rocking chair was broken…
Suddenly, despite the reassurance that the dry snow would leave most things unharmed, I had a closer glimpse of what it would be like to lose your whole home to a natural disaster.
One basket or box full at a time, Papa braced himself against the wind and lugged in most of our belongings, I dried them off and he brought them out to the storage camper. We called it a day at 4:30pm, after the kids had watched TV for half the day because we had no room for them to play, and we had no strength left to work. The wind began to slow, as did the snowfall.
Despite the horrible situation we managed to stay positive for most of the day. I did start feeling sick to my stomach midday, from fatigue I think. But I also hit an emotional low shortly before we stopped working. I just couldn’t face anymore partially water damaged belongings, and ignore my babies needs any longer. But throughout, we also could not ignore the miracles that found their way in…
The sewing machine I happened to bring inside the night before, the guitar Papa brought in moments before, the fact he wasn’t injured, the camper sustained very minimal damage, some of the building materials are salvageable, as were most of our belongings, and the list went on. We even saw the sun peek through the clouds before sunset - It will be spring next month, it said.
Papa says that when life-changing things happen like this, that even if they suck, the adrenaline helps him to switch into adventure mode – he even took a video of the wreckage during the blizzard! I think that must have helped me, but it is the work that follows that is the part hardest to manage. Cleaning up the mess, storing our belongings… it will be a lot of work.
Much work was accomplished yesterday when our family pitched in to help. We woke up Sunday morning and started off relatively slow to enjoy time with our children over cups of coffee. After a deep breath it was time to pick up the pieces, literally. Because life goes on, and you can’t let it mow you over. We’re all safe, the blizzard didn’t beat us even if it took half our house. We have to move on and keep building up because that is the only place we can go.
It was especially hard for me to stop looking at the piles of debris and notice instead the individual belongings. It wasn’t just a pile of household stuff, it was a beloved doll sitting in the snowbank, a cherished book from my childhood, Christmas presents, my book of sewing needles, Papa’s hot air balloon torn to shreds. Those aren’t supposed to be sitting in a snow drift. When I got up Sunday morning I wanted to avoid looking out the window because it felt traumatic, but I had to look because I knew it wouldn’t be as bad as it felt like it would be, and I had to put on that take charge attitude.
And just like Friday when the sky was the perfect baby blue before the storm, Sunday was amazing. The sun was bright, the sky clear, the air crisp and relatively warm for winter. It was refreshing, the calm after the storm, and it reminded me that every storm has an end. It felt horrible at the time, it was scary, it was saddening, but it ended. Though our couch, table, counter, our bathtub, and almost every square inch of our floor is currently taken up with boxes and bags of things that still need to be sorted out, dried off, and put away, I know there are some good things that will come of this. We have to see this as an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade, to rethink some things we’ve wished we could do differently, and even to do some early spring cleaning.
I’m sure the next few days will have its highs and lows for us – today I am looking forward to getting out with the kids and bringing all the wet towels to the laundromat so we can dry off more stuff – but we will always remember God’s mercy and grace in this situation. We have so much to be thankful for right now, and like Papa has told the kids, they will have quite the story to share.
I have been working on a Valentine’s Day post for Wednesday, but in light of this weekend, I think I’ll be taking the week off from blogging. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, not much time for play I expect. So it will be a belated Valentine’s Day post next Monday. Until then my friends, take care and enjoy your loved ones.