It is 4:04 am on Thursday, November 1, and now that the storm has come and gone and left us with some experiences good and bad, I have decided to share my thoughts.
It has been a very long week. Our kids will have had the entire week off because there is still spotty power in Maplewood. Nine thousand of the 26,000 residents of Maplewood still have no power and we are in that one-third. I pass my home on the way to town and the house seems darker than dark and it is in fact now, very cold inside. The temperature this morning is below 40 degrees and the house feels colder. I hate coming in and out just to get things now because we can't stay there because it is too cold at night.
The storm itself was scary on Monday night mostly because the winds were very high and we were able to see the trees move far beyond their capacity. Our trees swayed and fought the power of Sandy well because none of them fell on our home or property.
The lack of predicted torrential rains were the saving grace in the happy ending for Maplewood. Without flooding our homes were quite dry and safe. We are all grateful for this because Irene was not so forgiving and left many homes a disaster. We were lucky then as well and had no storm damage.
What remains for me is the way in which living without power gradually can wear you down. I have been boasting and joking about my experiences without power all over the world. I have been in many countries in impossible temperatures well-below zero and traveled and slept layered in clothes, coats, rugs and wool blankets with sharp points on floors of orphanages, unheated trains, and offices. Those memories make good stories and when I tell them I feel brave, but this is somehow different. The unknown was hard finally and now I am feeling the after effects.
I have always been open to appreciating awesome human flexibility in disaster, but this time, I am especially aware of how fragile we all are and how nature is more powerful. Nature will have the final say and actually I am okay with this. That we hurt one another in conflict and war is harder somehow.
I think about the work of WWO and t all my travels to locations where power was not a guarantee for those we employ in our now five countries. Those of us who have traveled for WWO are simply accustomed to the lack of power in the day and night. We see it as an annoyance, but not much more. We know that we will go home to the U.S. and have power that is predictable and reliable so not having power when we travel is no big deal. In Haiti at our WWO compound, there is no power after dinner every night. Christian and Romel, our hosts in Kenscoff, Haiti, use a generator off and on to accommodate us, but we all go to bed in darkness and silence without the internet and we sleep much better in my opinion.
What does not having power mean to me? I like it actually because it reminds me that we are not so in control even with all our fancy technology. I don't like it because it means I have less control over communication and my work may get behind. That is scary to me, but I also can find it relaxing. Yes, you heard me... there are moments when I realize that not having power is a good moment for me. I can let go and enjoy the moment and stop frenetically emailing.
I worked until about 7 pm last night. When I left the office it was very dark outside... much darker than usual because there were no street lights and residential lights. I became anxious as I walked to my car and then drove past my home and could hardly see the house it was so dark. My home looked abandoned. It was in fact abandoned. We left it alone to fend for itself as we went to a friend's house to eat and sleep.
Though I have really only been inconvenienced a bit, I realize today that I am suffering from some deprivation. I am beginning to show signs of affective disorder because of the lack of light and warmth that is beyond usual. Even though I have showered and kept warm and clean, I am missing light and comfort. I am uneasy, anxious, and not at my best this morning as I write to you all. I feel that I am vulnerable and fragile without the usual comfort and safety of my home. This is how millions of people live around the world... they live with this feeling all day and all night. They are on alert and vigilance is a constant. Hunger and exhaustion can come with this way of life as well. Children live like this... orphans live like this all day and all night.
I am in touch with an American couple in Russia right now as I write to you. They are adopting a toddler from an orphanage in Russia and they are sending me her photos, a video, and data about her growth and development. They are sending me their observations of her from their time spent getting to know her in the orphanage. She is feral and internalized. She has poor eye contact and she is predictably disconnected from them and those around her. She is autistic-like due to deprivation and a lack of connection in her life. She is not attached to anyone and she appears isolated, anxious, vigilant and I am sad looking at her and writing about her.
What makes us happy and able is connection... and part of that is being warm in the cold, cool in the heat, satiated with offerings of food and comfortable inside a shelter that is safe and strong.
Loss of that required footing that we take for granted each day can happen quickly. As adults we can perceive the temporary nature of circumstances like a storm, but what do children do with these anxieties and fears? What about this sense of impending doom that pervades the life of an orphan? They become worn down and all that innocent energy and power is lost to entropy. Randomness robs them of their purpose in life... the purpose of a child is to be happy and safe and growing and learning and playing and... I could go on.
From Sandy to orphans... not such a far-fetched story.