Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Hurricane home

 Ivy pauses to consider the carpet.
 Migrating Canada geese on the river a block away.
I found a long walk with lots of frogs. I love frogs. I think about the frogs, and the bananaquits and hummingbirds, and the flock of chickens that live near our apartment in San Juan. I think about how I've heard all the trees are down when I wake up early in the morning and there are no distractions, just the undulating landscape of my mind.
Tallulah's hurricane school. They have miniature donkeys, which are available after school as well.
The school is a seriously good fit. Maybe too good. Tallulah tells us she doesn't want to go home. It's hard to think about living with no power again, it's true--but then again most people in Puerto Rico are doing just that, right now. The mask of the modern world has been ripped off. All that surrounds us now in this cute little town is in fact pure luxury.
 Off to the haunted house at St. Lawrence University.
 My frog walk has other beauties.

 We carved pumpkins for the first time in maybe ever.
The information I needed to apply for unpaid family leave for the rest of the semester. To not have to leave the family here while I go back--into a critical, historic struggle to which I, we, will return, and soon. But right now I'm hitting a wall. I have the luxury of hitting a wall. "It's your self-preservation," a friend tells me. I have imagined myself living alone amid the devastation, seeking out water and food, and power. I know for sure I can do these things. But then they are here, Adam working long and unpredictable hours, Tallulah letting herself into the apartment and wondering when I'll be back, and I am a thousand miles away, sitting with my headlamp on, opening up the scar of Katrina and staring into it. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


It all started innocently enough. Tallulah had been thinking about her birthday party for months, and it all went according to plan. Sure, it rained so hard the bouncy castle collapsed, but that was before the guests arrived. I went out there and created a waterfall all over myself, and after many gallons came rushing over the rubbery dam, the whole thing bounced upright and no one was the wiser. Everyone had fun and stayed for hours. The next day, school was cancelled. Irma was coming. Adam had arrived just in time to help us prepare, and we weathered the storm together.

It wasn't bad, but it left us in the dark.

After taking Adam to the airport for his trip back to keep working on Callisto in Florida, Tallulah and I went out to dinner. It was late and hard to face going back to a dark apartment.
Soon thereafter, our shipping container arrived, full of treasures that had been in storage in South Carolina since Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Unpacking the container and lugging heavy boxes up the stairs was more fun than working on my syllabi, and I attacked the project with gusto. With some help from my friend Don and the maintenance guys at the Residencias, I got even the very heaviest crap up the stairs. Tallulah delighted in the archaeology of our lives. I put things away, fighting off clutter, creating order and even beauty out of stuff we had saved all those years. They were the very best things.
Meanwhile the passage of Irma had left the UPR maintenance crews with plenty to do.
We persisted in our lifestyle, veterans of random weather events and unforeseen circumstances, seasoned improvisers thanks to ten years of living aboard. Boiling water on the grill and hunkering down in one room after dark got depressing, but only because we weren't really set up for it, here on land. Everyone around the Residencias seemed to be slowly succumbing to a creeping sense that things weren't right, and might not be right for some time to come. That was before.

It was my birthday and I celebrated by grilling a croissant I had filled with chocolate-covered almonds.

I spent the day in that hurricane-coming steady adrenaline rush, an awful zing in the air that everyone else clearly felt, all of us hurrying around, unable to think, trying to plan. I'd left the car in the parking garage on campus after chatting with a friend about what the hell we were doing, were going to do. When I got home, Tallulah was buzzed on the adrenaline too, talking to Adam who--I eventually discovered, because I'd had only marginal cell coverage--had spent the whole day looking for flights out of San Juan to anywhere. It was now evening. The thing was on its way. It would be bad. That much was clear.

As it turned, out, at the last possible minute, Adam had found a flight out for us. I drove like mad to the airport because probably we were already late, I would have known that if I'd looked at my watch. I took a picture of where I left the car in the airport parking lot. I had no idea if I would be able to remember where I'd left it, however much later (if ever, because in times like this it's true that you can never go home again, it was never going to be the same place we had left) we returned. I had finally gotten all our stuff from Katrina into the house just the day before.

Our boat narrowly missed being destroyed by both hurricanes. Glad we moved it out of the San Juan Bay Marina, which is basically in exactly the same spot as Club Nautico. Glad Irma passed a few miles away, sparing it as it sat upright, hauled out in Port Charlotte.

That last, previously unscheduled flight out of San Juan happened to be headed for Atlanta, everybody with their dogs and cats and little babies hurtling headlong into their next life. My mom and Tom came and got us in the middle of the night and soon Tallulah was in her element, setting aside the stress of the fact that our life had been transformed into ????? 

The same day the hurricane loomed, Adam had gotten a job as Assistant DA in New York State. And so we waited for him to drive up from Florida to collect us, so we could all make a strange pilgrimage north.
Stopping at Denny's in what I'm pretty sure was Trump Country.

It was a hell of a long drive, which, in the void of the highway, we realized was maybe the same exact route taken by the guy who wrote the lyrics of that song "Wagon Wheel." North country winters, though--that was what we were heading toward.

Passing through New Jersey and Massachusetts, friends and family kept taking us in and making us feel beloved.

Arriving in the North Kingdom of Vermont. 

The light always shifts a little in the fall and I know it's that time, even in the tropics.
So many decisions.

Fortunately, Canton, NY, has a commune where we were generously given a bed for the night and food while we looked around and got the lay of the land. Not exactly home, but that's too elusive a concept to strive for.

Headed back to Vermont, taking the ferry across some river or lake (I'm not even sure what day it is, everything seems up for grabs).

Awaiting news. Being here now.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Last images from the Bahamas

On Long Island
Georgetown, Exumas 

Warderick Wells, Exumas
Signs people leave with their boat names atop a hill, I guess just to say they were there. We left ours--goodbye, Callisto!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

At rest

Make no mistake, having cats on board is something of a hassle. Now that our dinghy is gone, I float a bucket of sand, i.e., cat litter, in a lifesaver ring back from the beach, panicking slightly as it takes on water and threatens to capsize, since the bucket also contains stuff like our camera, sunglasses, maybe random things like plastic trash I collected on the beach and am now beginning a multi-stage process of (hopefully) disposing of properly. Honestly, the cats don't get on that well. Ivy, the newcomer, has taken to ambushing Daisy by bombing unexpectedly through portholes, earning her the nickname of the turd from space. (Phrasing by Adam.) I wake to dawn hisses. They insist on eating different meals. But all told it may be worth it to have pets on board, despite the mess, occasional conflict, and underway worry they bring--they are soft and furry but also, gentle reminders to avoid getting too anal, as it were, to embrace life's disorder and the constant of cruising, which is who the frack knows what you'll be doing next, a great gift I have taken with me out into the rest of life. These two cats came into our lives opportunistic, bearing out the idea that long ago in Egypt, they self domesticated. Clearly, this life suits them, and anyway, they make me laugh.