Just a few weeks ago, the writers at Pen Women Boca Branch NLAPW were hard at work securing our homes, putting gas in our cars, and stocking up on extra food and water in preparation of Hurricane Irma. Along its path, Irma left not only destruction and debris, but snippets of humor, awe, and life lessons, as evidenced in the following essays by our Letters members. Enjoy!
Alexandra Goodwin, Co-Chair of Letters, Boca Branch NLAPW
By Linda Mohr
My tunic top hangs like a limp dish rag. My skin feels like tacky glue. Thanks to Irma’s wrath, the house is a sufferable 85 degrees at 9 p.m. This is day four without power. I have been through this before when Hurricane Wilma left me in the dark for fourteen days. I have proven I can survive inconvenience. But twelve years later I am not so sure. Last night the houses across the street lit up like a Dickens Christmas village. Hopeful, I flipped a switch only to remain in darkness. I bless the generator each hour as I stick my head into the freezer, but I am still miserable. Laura Ingalls lived in one room for six months of blizzards. Why can’t I withstand this heat? I just want simple pleasures like clean clothes, clean dishes, hot showers, cold drinks and cool bed linens. Day five the teasing continues. All the houses on my side of the street have blazing light. My status is designated a special case. I don’t want to be special! I pray for relief and patience. On the seventh day you shall have power and thank you I do!
By Marlene Klotz
My husband and I rode out the hurricane at my niece Judy’s home in Lehigh Acres, which is in the west part of Florida. After losing the electricity, we sat in the living room hunched around a lantern while we heard the scary sound of shingles flying off the roof. Although we managed the water that gushed down from the ceiling and flooded the bathroom, the worst part of the storm was the immediate loss of running water for drinking and bathing. When we finally returned to our house in Boca Raton, everything was in perfect condition. Who knew?
By Sheila Firestone
Reflection on Irma
Around three AM, a fire truck rolled onto the grass behind our home announcing, “Tornado Warnings, Tornado Warnings.” We prepared for the worst; shutters covered the windows. Our home’s eyes seemed permanently closed.
My purple tibouchina trees lay felled on their sides. Foliage snapped off. Bald, they lean on what remained of the screened patio roof. Friends lost their electric and phone services. We speculated about where the animals could have hidden during the storm’s strongest winds. We see five ducklings and mother waddling about the pond’s edge near our home. The neighbor’s newly adopted black cat, Midnight, meows for breakfast.
For weeks vegetation and debris tower over the streets. We see the damage suffered in the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Almost feeling guilty, I sit writing checks to relief organizations. I remember my friends who live in tall buildings on the water’s edge still waiting for adjusters to assess their damage. Our upcoming FL NLAPW state conference in Daytona has moved to a different hotel and date. The season of weather horrors seems to have ceased. I continue to wonder how the country can prepare for the next category five storm.
By Penelope Love
Yesterday I woke up peacefully before turning on screens, allowing in the deluge of Irma images—the flooding rains and raging winds tearing through our hometown community. It’s still impossible to predict what the storm will bring. What I do have is a new definition of “hurricane preparedness”: living with an open heart, ready to embrace the winds of change. In evacuating South Florida, just driving north with my husband, his sister, our dog, and her two cats on a full tank of faith, we met so many lovely people who live in places hurricanes don’t go but they are still prepared for them in this way. I learned so many intangible things I would not otherwise know in my bones. Beautiful secrets about my sister, my husband, our pets, our friends, myself. I experienced our un-uprootable strength, grounded in how inexpressibly much we care, how deeply we love, and the extent to which we value this precious life. Along the backcountry roads of North Carolina and Virginia, I was blown away by Category 5 gratitude, tropical storm force brotherhood, and sustained winds of compassion. There’s a storm out there, all right. A Storm of Human Kindness. And it transcends anything the world has ever seen. Be prepared.
By Mimi Paris
THE FATAL CRASH
You big lug—you’re down
Can see by your branches
Still reaching for the sky
Though beaten, broken, thrashed
Thrown to the ground and bashed.
In one last rebuke
You bent to the side
Could have fallen back
And crashed our house
Then you’d be unbroken
To be replaced in the gaping hole
But you sacrificed instead and
Now lay splintered, cracked, dead.
When you were small, you made it
Back towards our house you’d fall
Soon righted and restored
You stood strong–grew proud and tall
Another storm—another fall
Again replanted in the gaping hole
Until IRMA’S winds blew your way
And with your life you chose to pay.
Fell to the side—broke in two
Splintered, cracked, halved
You cried, screamed, shrieked
No longer can you be righted
No longer replanted, watered, fed
You spared our home instead.
Your fate is all set
You’ll be carted away
No more birds chirping
No more yellow buds blooming
No more shade for cooling
Dead—a memory left instead.
By Carol White
I was only without power for twelve hours during Irma, so I’ve decided to write about the lighter side of the hurricane. Like most of us, I ate all my storm snacks starting the week before. Since I had television most of the time I watched a lot of Lifetime movies. A lot. Here are my notes on that: Beware of nannies, nurses, neighbors, and nudniks. Eric Roberts and Tracy Nelson can be good, bad, or crazy. Beware of anyone who has access to syringes and poison. Never run upstairs or turn your back on the person you’ve just threatened to tell the police about. Always wear eyeliner.
I used my four inch battery-operated TV one night and watched the weather, Law and Order reruns, and the Home Shopping Network, the latter featuring a twenty-year-old gorgeous model hawking a skin cream, with peptides yet, that promised to renew skin in only seven days. Seven days! I found two movies; one with Chuck Norris, the other with Martin Lawrence, each one worse than the hurricane.
Friends and relatives texted me non-stop with endless and needless advice on how to evacuate.
Like I said, I was lucky. I was safe.
By Vera Ripp Hirschhorn
My family was really lucky and mostly everyone I know was fortunate with Irma’s visit to Palm Beach County. This unwelcome intruder, in its fury, lashed out at tiles on our roof, which still haven’t been replaced; and one of our favorite little bougainvilleas that my hubby raised, vanished except for one surviving branch. Marty has already begun to care for this little one with lots of TLC as he does for our other favorite ones. I am optimistic that it will strengthen and blossom into a flowering pink adult, one day.
On the brighter side of Irma’s visit for which I am grateful, as I was for last year’s Matthew, both visits brought our family closer. Last year it was our daughter; she joined us at the Wyndham hotel as we huddled, laughed, and ate together. This year, Irma brought our son to our peaceful, sweet home in the mountains of North Carolina, which is where we were staying at the time Irma made landfall. Although we felt the relentless rain and howling winds overnight, albeit minor in comparison to Florida’s effects, we were together. And that’s all that mattered. Yes, we were all together, safe and sound.
By Alexandra Goodwin
In the aftermath silence following the storm, we ventured out. Broken limbs littered the yard, several sections of our fence were down, and the mango tree, which had survived Hurricane Wilma, stood naked, devoid of its lush vitality. I cried for the birds that had nested in them, birds I’d been feeding every morning for the past 20 years. Where would they go now? Would they fly to safer skies? Would they look for other trees? Would this mark the beginning of a new era in the development of my garden in which no birds would ever come back to feed?
I only had to wait one day for the answer: Cardinals flew back in their vibrant red plumage, and blue jays dashed from broken branch to the edge of the fountain for a drink of water. A choir of chirps, coos, and trills peppered the morning silence. The birds were back, gathering what they could to rebuild from the ground up. Powerful lesson in faith and humility. Sometimes I think G-d does it just so He can hear our voices reaching out to Him in prayer.
For full essay, read Cleaning the Slate Part II https://alexandragoodwin.com/blog/.
By Elaine Bossik
The Beast That Roared
The wind whistled and soon became a roar,
A Beast was at our door.
Rain lashed against the windows,
Water seeped onto the floor.
The lake became an angry sea,
With waves and foam and flying debris.
This Beast named Irma was a she.
We turned on a lantern, gathering in its glow,
Then dusted off a favored game from long ago.
We divvied the cash and tossed the dice,
Becoming millionaires was really nice.
The Beast still roared, refusing to flee.
We no longer cared now,
We had Monopoly.