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Dealing with Uncertainty and Uproar


Tornadoes and other burrowing animals struck my home turf this weekend, in a strong reminder of the power of what insurance companies call  "acts of God."    I think we (humans) are very gutsy and resourceful to cope as well as we do with forces that are pretty much out of our control.

Saturday, I was at home, working in my raggedy woodland garden:  putting out deterrents to the many creatures that like to feast upon it, voles, deer, rabbits, and an underground creature the size of a small dog that has grown fat on my periwinkle (reminding me that the periwinkle is never safely mine.)  I've been battling these animals and their appetites for all the several years I've been gardening, and I'm often on the losing side, which makes me feel ineffective and not in control of my life.  (The underground monster ate a yucca nearly forty years old with a trunk as thick as a tree's.)

When the afternoon rain progressed from a spatter to thunder and lightning and heavy wind, I took a break for a couple of hours.

While I had a snack and a sit-down, tornadoes roared  through Raleigh, 30-some minutes away, turning the "City of Oaks" into the City of Up-ended Oaks, killing three children in one family, demolishing 60+ houses, and lifting the metal roof over my office.  Shaw University, about eight blocks away from the office, has now closed for the semester. The been-there-forever fish market I pass on the way home is gone.

 My office partner, who owns the building, got hit at both the office and her home.  The office has roof damage, etc., but is livable.  It will be about three months before her home is.  These pictures are the view from my office window of the backyard fence, and one of the giant trees fallen in the old cemetery half a block away. (See A Trail of Pain and Ruin in the Raleigh News & Observer.)

I got off so easy; I feel unscathed and very lucky.  What's stunning to me is how close I came to  serious damages, and how close friends and neighbors  came to being safe.  And not much any of us could have done to change the outcome.   It does take courage to see the forces that can wreak havoc and be happy and productive anyway.  I do think every human deserves some credit for that.

The burrowing storms felt like cosmic voles to me, larger and far harder to stop.   When I think about my fury and feeling of helplessness at finding yet another shrub eaten, I can only imagine the full emotional impact of those who lost homes to the wind. 

A New York Times reviewer of my novel Sister India noted that I seem to have a keen sense of the precariousness of our lives."  Don't we all?  Again, we all deserve some credit for being happy and productive in unpredictable circumstances.   If it weren't for religion, I don't know what we'd do.

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