08/11/2014 06:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Preparing for Hurricanes Taught Me How to Prepare for the Future


When predictions of Iselle arrived, I didn't take them lightly. And for good reason, this wasn't my first rodeo. I've been in a hurricane when a tree fell on our house, I've been in a lightening storm when a friend was struck and killed, I've been in a town that was evacuated in the threat of tsunami. And...I've sat through plenty of storm predictions when nothing notable happened.

The prediction of this storm got to me. I think it is because we had over 72 hours of notice. All of those hours waiting and wondering what would happen and what could happen. Followed by the act of determining how to prepare.

Perhaps it is my location that made me feel so vulnerable. After all, I live in a little octagon with four walls of windows on the edge of a cliff. My little home faces the Big Island, where the eye of the storm was coming from. While being vulnerable to the unknown is always there, I felt more aware of it when seated in this position.

On the morning of the storm, the sets of waves that rolled into our small bay increased to mammoth proportions and sprayed over the top of the cliffs. These waves awoke the seed of fear in me. For the first time, I became very afraid of this impending storm.

For me, dealing with the fear of a storms comes down to three things: 1) The potential loss of what you care about (people and things), 2) Relationship to resources (food, water and shelter) and 3) Murphy's Law. Me And Murphy have a thing. I prepare, we're all good. I don't, it's a mess.

And so the decision making process began...
The first question is where do I want to be? Friends urged me to leave my home on the side of the island that was going to receive the first wave and brunt of the storm. My logical brain said they made sense.

But then it came down to another level of practicality. What did I want to have to face the storm? Most of the houses in the community I live in are off the grid, meaning they have their own water sources and solar power. They are self sufficient people, and dedicated to supporting and assisting each other. This means when the power lines go down, (as long as the solar panels aren't pulled of the roof) we won't lose our power. Given the remote location, we already have a healthy stock of food. Even in the face of getting hit the hardest by the storm, recovering in that circumstance sounded better than going out into a neighborhood that was reliant on the grid for power and water.

There was another level of listening that had to be tended to. How does one listen? What do you listen to? The prediction? The gut? The heart? The rational mind? The voice of fear? As the waves crashed harder and the winds picked up, as the atmosphere change made my ears ache, I watched the birds. Did they stay or did they go? I listened to the fear, and asked where it was coming from. Outside of me, or inside of me? I listened to my gut. And then I listened to my heart. All the while taking in a barrage of news reports and emails and texts from concerned friends.

Some of my friends reminded me that I'm the kind of gal that would enjoy the thrill of meeting the power of the storm. Other friends encouraged me to run for high ground. And all I had left was the noise in my head, a bucket of fear and a choice to make: stay home, stand and meet the storm or not. (And then I thought this is exactly how a lot of people get killed in big storms -- wanting to stay at home). I checked the storm warning for the 50th time. No evacuation notice.

Throughout the day people looked up at the blue skies and calm weather and said, "Hard to believe a big storm is about to hit."

I couldn't help but think of the state of the planet.

Since the metaphor wasn't lost on me, lets stop talking about what to do when facing a hurricane -- and lets shift the conversation so that we are speaking about how we face fear of the unknown.

We KNOW a big storm is coming. The facts are in front of us. The prediction of devastation has been written. We have the news and information to understand a big "storm" is headed our way and is going to affect us as our population continues to grow and our use of resources continues to increase at an unsustainable rate. Climate change is changing the game, in ways that none of us fully understand. But the predictions are narly: mass extinction, water shortages, not enough food. Sounds....scary.

The waiting is the hardest part. We can all feel the change that is coming in our bones. So the question that is present: How do you prepare to meet the storm? What do you do with the information? Do you look at the blue sky and say, 'Looks good today, can't imagine anything bad coming across the horizon?' Do you plant a garden, become tight with your community and neighbors? Become self-reliant? Install solar? Do you reimagine what a future looks like when we are a population in alignment with the land? Do you stand up to the megalithic corporations that are destroying our planet in the name of self interest and greed? Or just imagine the worst? Or avoid the whole conversation together?

I'm embarrassed to say how much I toiled over whether or not to stay on this land or go. For the record, I combined basic logic, information, watching the animals on the land and a voice inside of me that spoke with a solid and clear voice, "stay."

It wasn't lost on me that fear can be paralyzing, and is a crappy place to have to make a decision from.

A few hours before the storm was scheduled to come to our island, we decided to take a walk in the winds and watch the waves. An unusually cold rain pelted us as we scampered over the cliffs. The waves that rolled in where something you would see in a giant surf competition, the kinds of waves that aren't seen on this part of the island. They crashed over rocks and covered the cliff sending spray comparable to a five story building. When the wind started howling, and the rain soaked our clothes, it was a relief to meet the storm. Turned out being with the storm was far less frightening than thinking about it. Turned out the fear dissipated when we just met the storm head on.