When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.
First, the wind would rumble in the distance like an approaching river, then he would see grass bend, pressed by a great invisible hand. The dull rumble would rise in pitch to a swishing, lashing exultation, causing stalks to lie flat against the ground while the tougher branches of shrubs held themselves up and shrieked their defiance in the gusts. Then the first drops, cold and heavy, would plummet from the sky and burst on the ground.
In the centre of Bond was a hurricane-room, the kind of citadel found in old-fashioned houses in the tropics. These rooms are small, strongly built cells in the heart of the house, in the middle of the ground floor and sometimes dug down into its foundations. To this cell the owner and his family retire if the storm threatens to destroy the house, and they stay there until the danger is past. Bond went to his hurricane room only when the situation was beyond his control and no other possible action could be taken.
Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart.
In late April 2009, after days of rain, our neighborhood flooded during a heavy storm. Construction in our area had created vulnerabilities that had not existed in the area before by blocking natural run off and our home took in almost a foot of water. We woke up in time to move low lying books to higher ground, then huddled on the bed with two cats, my small suitcase (I had flown in from a singing job in Albany, New York that evening), and the vacuum cleaner. Don’t laugh… it was close at hand and I guess we thought we might need it to clean up, which was pretty ludicrous considering the amount of water about to inundate the house and both of our cars, which were totaled in the driveway.
Water reached the thresholds and rushed in from the front and back doors, streams running to meet each other like a parent and child reunited. Nick, our oldest cat, lost his customary coolness and control and lay smack dab in the middle of the bed with his head buried in a pillow. His younger sister Lisa, or Buki as we often call her, sat on the edge of the bed and watched things float from the other end of the house (including the food bowl). Those few days after the flood were the only time during Nick’s seventeen years that he willingly relinquished dominance to Buki. Two or three days later he would lovingly smack her in the face in the front yard, as if to say, “Okay, I’m back now.” Then he lay down with a paw on the water hose, just to make sure that all this wouldn’t happen again.
My husband and I decided we would do our own reconstruction rather than pay someone an insane amount of money to do it. In the process we learned so much about how a house is put together. Drywall, flooring, plumbing, electrical, tiling, you name it, we have probably done it, unless it involves natural gas lines and air conditioning and heating, which we hired out. The result of this process is that our house is now infinitely more our own than it was before the flood. I textured and painted all of the walls myself, and the shoebox kitchen is now open to the living room, with a window over a counter and a doorway near the backdoor. We designed tile counters, back splashes, tub surrounds and the new fireplace.
For the last year or so we have been renovating rather than reconstructing. It is no question that our home has improved vastly because of the destruction brought on by the flood. That isn’t to say that I would ever want to go through it again, but the storm created space, an opportunity to be creative which nourished us in some way and showed us things we didn’t know about ourselves. It is said that a home is a direct reflection of its owners; I certainly feel more colorful and individual than I did four years ago!
Demons never die quietly, and a week ago the storm was a proper demon, sweeping through the Caribbean after her long ocean crossing from Africa, a category five when she finally came ashore at San Juan before moving on to Santo Domingo and then Cuba and Florida. But now she’s grown very old, as her kind measures age, and these are her death throes. So she holds tightly to this night, hanging on with the desperate fury of any dying thing, any dying thing that might once have thought itself invincible.
A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.