Monday, October 29, 2012

Out In the Eye of the Storm

Hi, there,

I write this hoping that you and yours will be ok over the next few days. You do not live in a particularly at-risk area, but I believe you could have some effects. More to the point, I understand that there are people you care about who live in areas that are in some danger, so I am thinking about them.

This is the second hurricane I've been under in so many years, and also the second one ever where I've been so close to the eye. As far as I can tell from the Internet, Sandy's eye passed just to the north of us this afternoon, and has just now passed my mother's house, close on the east. Neither of us have seen very serious conditions, but it has been interesting, and we are not in the clear yet. I think Irene's eye did pass over us, last year; it was predicted to when we went to bed that night.

I had watched Irene approach with such dread; the storm track was to go right over our heads, and at one time it looked possible for it to pass over as a Category 2 storm. The scary thing for me was the thought that by the time it was upon us, we'd be committed to staying put, with nothing to do but survive until it passed. But, the storm weakened; it passed over us very much like a nor'easter, with lots of rain and tossing tree-tops. We never lost power...and I was slightly disappointed. A major storm would be something to see. We set the alarm for when the eye was supposed to pass over, but the alarm didn't go off. We did wake up at 4 AM, about an hour and a half too late, and I opened a window and looked out; the trees were tossing grandly against the dark, grey sky while millions of toads and crickets and what-not sang their desire in the strange, wet world. That is my lasting image of the storm.

I told you about my brush with Irene at the time, but I did not, oddly enough, tell you about the hummingbird. We'd taken all our feeders down but one, because the weather people said to take in anything that could possibly become airborne and hit a window. That one we left up because it was right next to our front door, and we figured we could grab it if things got really bad. I'm glad we left it up, because this hummingbird kept coming to visit it, over and over every couple of minutes, even as the winds picked up and up and band after band of rain moved over us, each one growing gradually and steadily worse than the last. Still she kept coming through the gusty, green air, wet and warm and leaning as it was. I imagine she had holed up somewhere nearby, but could not or would not go to sleep during the day, so she had to keep eating, and to eat she had to fly out to the feeder. I understand hummingbirds can starve to death in a day. What an incredibly strong little bird. I was glad we kept the feeder up.

Then, when I started this blog, sometime later, I wished I could include a letter-entry about the storm and the trees and the hummingbird, but it was too late; Irene was already several weeks in the past, and I could think of no way to make my comments topical. This storm has given the story a second chance.

I've often wondered what you make of this blog of mine, all these stories addressed to you in absentia (the ones addressed to your presence do not need this blog, obviously). If it had occurred to me at the time that a blog like this might strike the addressee as weird I would have asked your permission before starting, but I do so much that is weird and I do not realize until I see other people's faces. I do not see your face when I write this blog, so I do not know if you think it is weird. Perhaps, like my storm story, I will accept a second chance and ask you now?

Maybe it will make your status as muse seem less weird if I tell you you are not the first such muse, nor will you likely be the last. The way it works is if I am mentally composing a series of letters to someone, the letters sometimes capture my internal monologue the same way that a river, meandering, sometimes captures the waters of another river, changing the course of each. Then, for a while at least, my thoughts become addressed to somebody, and sometimes this address serves as an interesting focal point for my mind. I see the world as though on behalf of someone else, thinking look, look, look! I want to show you something, this thing, here, for you.

My thoughts are no longer addressed to you, except when I'm preparing to write a blog entry or an actual email to you. The mood passes, but I like this way of writing. I like what I think and what I see when I am looking to show you something. So I keep on with it.

Fifteen years ago or so, I was addressing my thoughts to the headmaster of my boarding school, he who had just kicked me out, a decision I did not resent him for. At first I thought he must be right, because I was used to thinking he was always right, both morally and in terms of his judgment. Later I came to see that although he made mistakes, sometimes serious mistakes, that decision of his was the right one for me even if it was right by accident, as it may have been. And so I wrote letters to him in my mind, letters about the strange, wide world to which he had sent me. I forget if I ever sent any of those letters. I remember that I intended to, but even if I did send him some letters, I did not send him all of the ones I thought up. I may never have even written them down. I might have started a blog of those letters, if I had known about blogs back then. I barely knew about email. But I don't think that blog would have had the depth or breadth that this one sometimes does, because he and I were never exactly friends, and I do not know what, if anything, we might have talked about had we ever simply chatted. I'm not sure we had much in common.

I remember I wrote letters in my mind also to my fellow students left back at school, and these I know I never sent, for reasons that would take too long to explain here. But I did hope to report back to those people, if I ever saw them again, so I thought about what I might say. Often, my words took the form of a Jimmy Buffet song, one I'd always liked and which suddenly seemed entirely appropriate;

I've had good days and bad days and goin' half mad days
I've tried to let go but you're still on my mind
I've lost all the old ways, I'm searchin' for new plays
Puttin' it all on the line.

And now that same song is again appropriate, though for a completely different reason, for the chorus goes;

If the phone doesn't ring, you'll know that it's me
I'll be out in the eye of the storm
If the phone doesn't ring, you know that I'll be
where someone can make me feel warm.

You and I do not make each other's phones ring much, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that we both hate phones. Keeping in touch is complicated, more complicated than it should be, for even in this age of instant internet there are people I care about and hardly hear from, people I miss, though we are only a send icon apart. People are strange, you know that? I no less than anybody else. There are people I stop talking to for no good reason at all, and I am not even aware of any bad reasons. I just stop. But I like the idea of a silent telephone, or perhaps an empty inbox, as a greeting. I like the idea of an intimacy where a phone not ringing communicates someone specific not calling, and also what that specific person is doing. The idea is somewhere between insanely presumptuous and gently sweet.

When the phone doesn't ring, I'll know you are out in the thick of your life, a life that is largely opaque to me but for the occasional glimpses you allow me, like gaps in the bands of rain. Perhaps you are like that hummingbird, small and strong and feathered, flying off to I do not know where, somewhere in the busy green twilight. But I know, too, that there are those who would and could warm you, should you need it. I have met one such person, and I have seen your face fill with sunlight when you held her, you free, for a moment, as clouds.

And for this reason, and others, I will hope she is safe and that you are with her and that, like me and mine, you can lie together in the dark tonight and listen to the wind in the wild night.

-best, as ever, C.

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