Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hurricanes

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.
Maria.

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.

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