A great storm is approaching. For 2 days, though the sunny August sky and fall- like temperatures belie it, a crackling apprehension, tinged with a sense of wonder, has crouched over this fragile island that I call home. Still miles away, Irene is crawling up the Atlantic Coastline, catlike, huge spine arched, hisssing and spitting with feline ferocity,waiting to pounce upon her prey.
It was a flamingly beautiful October in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel paid our little upstate NY hamlet in the foothills of the Catskills a terrifying pre- Halloween visit. I remember my father boarding up the windows of our little Victorian house where we all cowered for many hours waiting out the great storm. We played board games, my Mom cooked on our gas stove, my wonderful Grandmother told great tales, my little brother hid under the diningroom table. We survived. When it was over I promptly went to the Sidney Public Library to feed my book addiction. There I discovered "A Time of Wonder" by Robert McClosky.
For the past few days I have been fondly remembering that book. Written in 1953, Mr. McClosky uses the eyes of a small child to recount the approach, arrival and departure of a great Hurricane in Penobscot Bay, Maine. I read and re-read it to my children during and after Hurricane Gloria's attack on Long Island in 1985. It delicately outlines our survival instincts both during and after great storms, both literal and figurative.
I remember Gloria as a wonderful respite from the world where children created their own schoohouse in the woods in the 10 day absence of real school. There amongst the trees, with nature as their guide and imagination as their master, they learned far more than in the constricting walls of Miller Place Primary school.
My late friend John and I combined our resources and cooked on my Hibachi. A great frozen fish, gifted to me by a member of the church choir where I worked, kept us in ice longer than any of our neighbors. On day 8 we roasted it's smelly, melted carcass and fed it to my cats. It was a time of true communion, a time of wonder.
Is this a time of wonder too? Most of my life has been restructured. My teaching contract of the past 10 years was not renewed and I am frantically trying to reframe both my financial stability and my sense of personhood. This autumn will be a new horizon for me, unframed by the constricts and apprehensions which usually herald a new school year. My life will follow a new calender. It is both terrifying and exciting. So like the approach of a great storm.