Friday, September 19, 2003

Isabel has come and gone. As expected, on Thursday, the day that the hurricane blew in, I was called and told not to come to work. So I waited, for anything that looked like a hurricane. I napped periodically, waking up with the cats laying on my chest. By 2pm, the wind started picking up interspersed with rain, and I went outside to sit on my stoop to experience it. When I looked up toward the sky, I saw that the clouds were moving faster than I'd ever seen before, looking like they were captured on time lapse film then projected at normal speed. My neighbors across the street sat outside as well to watch nature's spectacle, and their kids played on the sidewalk in bright, colorful raincoats. They looked like a bunch of bouncing gumdrops against the backdrop of the grey day. Though windy, it wasn't dangerous yet.

Thursday late afternoon was filled with wind ripping through trees and bursts of rain spewing out of the clouds. I was able to keep my windows open and hear the high pitched howling, because they were parallel to the direction of the wind. The cats sat on the sill and watched, curious at this invisible, giant, and angry visitor that shook trees, then tossed branches and leaves around like a child throwing a tantrum. Both my fireplaces bellowed deep, throaty sounds as the wind was force fed down the chimneys.

There did come a time that I had to shut my windows, as the constant swooning, rocking trees and fast moving clouds accompanied by the whistling wind made me motion sick. Eventually I was able to open them again, but for awhile I couldn't look outside and had to absorb myself in indoor activities to ease the queasiness. Motionless, indoor activities like painting.

The winds, though strong and constant were just a prequel to the violent gusts that we would experience once darkness fell. That's when things took a much more severe turn. Isabel the bully was really flexing her muscles, and not just branches, but trees started to fall. I was at my computer and heard the big cracking sound, then looked outside to see the casualty across the street. A beautiful, old tree that couldn't withstand the forceful gale. Cars were buried under branches, but mine fared well since I parked it next to a young, small tree.

I was surprised that I didn't lose power at all, though millions of people did. It was hard to get online, but I managed to through the night. Finally, something had to give and my cable went out. At that, I retired to my bedroom and kept one window open. My long white curtains looked like ship sails flapping in the moonlight. Every time a gust came it tossed them up toward the ceiling and the smell of fresh, rain soaked air blew over my face. The cats had followed me into bed, and watched the curtains with uncertainty. It was very surreal, and magical in a way, as if I'd been transformed into another world. One where the sky interacted with us much more and refused to be cast off as just a backdrop to us humans. It demanded attention, and let us know it was a force to be reckoned with and that it was feeling turbulent. I felt lucky to be experiencing it, as it does connect us to earth and sky, and though that may sound bewildering and intimidating, it was actually very comforting.

So I laid there, and I let it in. And beside me, on top of me, and around me. Isabel had traveled hundreds of miles and across an ocean, so I let her churn inside my room and explore, her wispy tendrils touching me, my cats, the walls, my bed, the ceiling. Reaching through my chimney and out my fireplace, then back up again. Inspecting my rumpled clothes on the floor and brushing over the perfume bottles on my vanity. Caressing the marble Victorian mantle over the fireplace and the top of my sleigh bed. Cruising through my foyer and out the living room window. Rattling my windows as she entered and exited, watching me rouse from a light sleep as if playing a joke. Observing me as I laid there silently and watched the dancing shadows from my curtains.

And then finally, she let me sleep.

The next day, I walked around the neighborhood to surmise the damage. Lots of people were walking around and I stopped in the local coffee place to get a frozen mocha. Life had returned to earth from the sky, and that smaller focus had me craving a blended.

A fallen tree in a yard in my neighborhood. This one crashed through the wrought iron fence and landed in this persons front yard. Many of the homes here date back to the middle 1800's and because they have been painstakingly renovated, withstood the winds pretty well.
Another tree casualty on Mt. Royal Avenue. This one toppled over a sidewalk and out into the street, also taking the top of a Bolton Hill street lamp with it, seen at right in this photo.

The fallen tree across the street from me taken in the daylight. My car was parked just across the street from this one.