As a Midwesterner, I’m used to tornadoes. As a transplanted New Englander, I became familiar with nor’easters. But hurricanes? In Connecticut? Evidently, yes—not often, but sometimes. The end of last month was one of those times.
And while it actually was just a tropical storm by the time it hit our area, the strong winds did a ton of damage. Downed trees and branches were everywhere. The power went out—and stayed out for seven days. Because we are on a well, that meant no running water for seven days either.
Beyond being inconvenient, the whole experience was very unsettling. I spent lots of time in various coffee shops in towns that did have power, where others, like me, vied for limited outlets to plug in computers and cell phones. Some folks brought their own power strips, which they were happy to share. Instead of everyone sitting at their own table, if a chair was free, you sat with a stranger or invited one to join you.
When the power finally came back on, I felt a huge sense of relief. I was happy to clean the refrigerator and restock it with fresh items. I was thrilled to be able to wash the floors and clean the bathrooms. (I mean, pond water in the bathtub so we could flush the toilets? Ugh.) And just like that, life is back to “normal.”
I don’t want to forget this experience. Here’s what I’d like to remember:
- Strangers can quickly become friends. I had interesting conversations with numerous people. I heard the latest updates and rumors and opinions about how quickly the cleanup was progressing. I shared a table with the owner of a local restaurant I had been meaning to visit. While eating out (again), I spoke with the pianist, who, as it turned out, lives just a couple of miles from us.
- When it’s dark in the evening, and you don’t have electricity, there’s not too much to do. Make hay while the sun shines!
- Working out of a Starbucks is fun…for awhile. As someone who works from home most of the time, I discovered that working from the local coffee shop is a nice alternative (but only for a couple of hours).
- Many people had it much worse than I did. While being without power and running water for an entire week was certainly challenging, so many others had it even worse. Damage to houses, flooding, being evacuated, fires—some areas are still not back to normal.
- Gratitude is a powerful antidote to self-pity. And there were things to be grateful for: help and support from our neighbors, invitations to take showers at friends’ homes, the care and concern of family and colleagues, and a continued sense of gratitude to God for the gift of life and all the basics we can so often take for granted here in the U.S.
What types of natural disasters have you experienced? And what lessons can you share?
Featured image: Maggie Smith