Well hurricanes have been the subject of many an article lately. Today, Irma’s destruction is measured in my former home state and she has mostly moved north to leave those people be. Her affects on Florida are described in my text messages and all over my Facebook news feed. Destruction, yes, but thankfully I have not heard complete devastation from people I love. Oh, mustn’t we always remind ourselves that devastation is cyclical, and we are all in the circle. We all have troubles, whether or not Irma is the cause, and we all have hands for helping. Right now, Irma (and Harvey, too) is America’s news. It’s flooding. It’s roofs ripped off, fires even, and looting. Yet, hope lives on.
At my home, I sit in a quiet sunroom, surrounded by windows and the sound of cold wind and sirens. Leaves move and birds chirp, as they always do. Life is a crescendo-diminuendo, predictable yet changing, cyclical yet surprising.
And Irma is moving. “Why is she following us?” my children asked as we headed north from our Myrtle Beach resort vacation early Monday morning. Over the weekend, we had been watching Irma on the television, interrupted by emergency broadcasts where the governor of South Carolina spoke the possibilities. We watched, we listened, waiting for information that could change our departure time. Irma is following us, and Irma is in us. Who knows why she is here or where she will go. Until they hit land, and even once they do, hurricanes are unpredictable. Today, Irma is fading into scattered thunderstorms.
It is September. The air is cold out my window and the sky is one big cloud waiting to burst. The headlines: Irma Tosses Homes into the Ocean. An Alligator Wanders Downtown. Manatees, Fish Stuck on Land. Record Flooding. Power Lost. Death Toll. A professor once taught me that all great fiction requires truth. Truth, she argued, is the starting point for any great story. I say stories as if all stories are fictional. Stories are things gone by, but their affects can still bring pain. Here, I am simply speaking of the story itself, not of the lives and homes mangled by its events.
From my room, I know the story of Irma but all I see is a grey sky. All I feel is the chill of autumn.
No matter how scientific, the changing of seasons is still strange to me. The most shocking is summer to fall, when tank tops no longer suffice, when sweaters are necessities, when the scarves come out.
Autumn. That season that so many people love for its orange and yellow colors, for the beginning of family celebrations, for the turkey on the table and the aroma of cinnamon and cloves. Symbolically, though, why does autumn remind of a downward change? It’s no longer time to jump and swim, but to sit and reflect. The year is coming to a close, and I hear those words of John Lennon. And what have you done?
It’s not that I believe doing is the answer, at least not when it comes to the changing of seasons. Autumn comes, the leaves fall, then winter strikes. The year ends and another begins. This is how the natural world works. It is purposeful. Still, we all have our favorite seasons. Mine is summer, and it can’t last forever.
Like I told my 6 year-old recently, “When you get rid of old things, you make room for new things.” He was sad and crying because a pair of his most beloved pajama shorts had a hole in them and I told him, perhaps not so sympathetically, that we could just throw them out. He lost it. Humans abhor change.
America is making news, and it’s not just about hurricanes. And of course it’s not just America making news either.
Change is everywhere today. It always is, but the stirring of hurricanes and the coming of cooler days makes change evident for me. Even if we aren’t up on all the news stories, we can’t ignore the weather. It touches our skin and enters our lungs. It blows our hair to our faces. It makes us sneeze, drenches our sidewalks, and facilitates the fading of chlorophyll.
Oh, that beauty be discovered here in this solemn grey sky.
Beauty has so many definitions and I am now led to this story:
When I was in college, an art professor gave an assignment for us all to define beauty. What was it called? Maybe “The Beautiful Project”? We had to give answers for A Beautiful Face, A Beautiful Font, A Beautiful Depiction of Water. So many others, but these are what I remember. We had to gather our image-answers and display them with labels on a large matboard. Today I wish my Beautiful Project was still in my possession, but it was left in the classroom for grading and has probably been decomposing in a landfill for some time now. Likely, it is completely gone.
Can I try to recreate it for you?
A Beautiful Face: John Lennon
A Beautiful Font: My own careful handwriting.
A Beautiful Depiction of Water: a photo of military personnel giving water bottles to a group of thirsty refugees.
I suppose at the time I was an advocate for “Make peace, not war,” hugs instead of guns. Today, I admit that my perspective has shifted slightly.
The Beautiful Project was completely personal, one big opinion to be displayed. I suppose all art is. The artist brings to life what is hidden inside, and that in itself is beauty. I once prided myself on being different. Even in art class I had different ideas–beauty could not be found in separated images, but in the thoughts behind the whole of the answers–and yet today I sit in a room and ponder the weather like everyone else.