Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me.
– Emily Dickinson
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
– The Beatles
We, some of us, are a people who don’t like to be inconvenienced. When the Starbuck’s line gets four people deep, we huff. When bandwidth speed slows down, we gripe. Some of us have grown so accustomed to controlling circumstances and fortune, karmic handshakes and secret attraction loops, that we no longer let chance or bad fortune enter our by-design vocabulary.
So, emergencies, the real ones, can test us.
When the headlines and warnings about Irene’s fierceness came last week, luckily I was in a space that I could hear them. My busy season had just passed, and no new urgent project absorbed my attention with false priorities. In fact, I had spent much of last week spaciously hiking and walking and talking with my 26-year-old niece. So by the time she left on Friday, I could face the fact that an emergency – a 430-mile-wide-100-mph-wind-10-inches-of-rain emergency – could be on her way.
Head space seems to make a difference. If you’re stuck in busy, urgent “I-have-important-things-to-take-care-of” mode, then it’s difficult to stop your wheels and listen to what matters. But acknowledge imminent danger or death, acknowledge how temporary everything is, acknowledge that your work will still be there waiting for you after the emergency, and you might save yourself a lot of time and grief.
Prudence might be the mean between fearful reactivity and foolish disregard. And it doesn’t hurt at times to ask her to come out and play. She is a dear.
Our household responded. Neighbors exchanged cell phone numbers. We stayed off the roads. We braced ourselves. We read and talked and listened to the winds. The town’s supervisor and a cadre of emergency volunteers have stayed on hand to aid stranded and distressed neighbors.
Our basement flooded to near-dangerous levels, but my wife and I bailed buckets, and then two neighbors stopped by first to help bail and then to find a generator to kick on our pump.
The three forty-foot trees that fell on our land barely missed our house and shed, but a neighbor dropped by, chain saw in hand, and introduced himself and offered a price we couldn’t refuse to give us instant fire wood.
The rising waters washed away a small wooden bridge on our pond, but we wanted to build a new one anyway.
Our house is out of power and will be for most if not all week, but I had wanted to get back to a co-working space in the city of Kingston anyway – which, it turns out, does have power and WiFi (which is where I am now).
But a little inconvenience is nothing to complain about. Compared to Katrina, tsunamis, the rebellions that are wreaking havoc in other countries, we’re fortunate. That said, deep sympathies go out to the people who did lose homes and businesses and loved ones these past few days. Prepared or not, there were casualties.
Minor and major inconveniences aren’t likely places to track delight and wonder, but they are places fertile to track how spacious or cramped our minds (and basements) are.
What about you? Any emergencies or minor inconveniences challenge your pace today? Regardless, share with us your day’s three highlights and let us know where you’re writing from.
See you in the (wet) woods,
The Three Highlights Guy