Water, Change and Hurricane Irene

It’s been months since I sent out a newsletter, months since I felt like life was sort of normal. When Hurricane Irene blew through the Northeast it changed my life. In a matter of hours, the rising, chaotic waters washed out the bridge that connects my home and office to the rest of civilization.

Living near a creek has always felt like a blessing. I wake up and fall asleep to the ever present sounds of water, flowing, tumbling, rushing, murmuring. In warm weather I work with the sliding glass doors open in my office and the sounds of water add another level of healing to my work.

But in the hurricane, the water became frightening. Rising higher than I had ever seen it, it rushed by at 40 miles an hour – whole up-rooted trees flying by like twigs.  And when the rain stopped, where our sturdy steel and concrete bridge had connected us to the main road, there was only swirling white water and a rising helplessness in the face of that much power.

We are so small in the face of a hurricane sweeping through our lives, whether it is wind and water or tumultuous life changes. But every crisis holds within it the seeds of opportunity, and while as the hurricane whips through, it may seem like disaster, there is also new possibility.

Kind neighbors quickly helped us create a temporary footbridge, but I could no longer see clients there. For the past 10 years, I had been working in a beautiful healing office space 50 feet from my home in the peaceful Catskill mountains. Now I was suddenly forced to find a new place to work. I have been blessed to find a wonderful new office a half hour away in Uptown Kingston, NY and I am surprisingly enjoying being in this urban setting, with it’s cafes and shops and parking meters. And I found to my delight, that people I hadn’t seen in years were thrilled to have me back in civilization.

It’s a very different work setting, and it urges me to explore new ways of working. And one of the surprising gifts, is a new understanding of trauma, an in-my-bones experience of a hurricane sweeping through life and what it is like to live through the changes.

Hurricanes come in many shapes and sizes. For me, each day, I pack up all my stuff and trek down a long driveway and cross a temporary plywood footbridge across a deceptively mild-mannered 30 foot wide creek. Whenever it rains and the water rises I feel a flutter of fear – will it wash out the temporary bridge again as it did last month? Will we be stranded and isolated?

We ration our propane and heat, since fuel trucks can’t get to us. We pray we and our neighbors don’t need a fire truck or ambulance, and that it doesn’t snow before they finish re-building the bridge. We ponder all that we took for granted just a few months ago. And I rejoice that we have our home, our lives and the opportunity to explore new ways of living when the water rises and changes the ground beneath our feet.

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Jenny Sherrell - November 20, 2011

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your story. The times are definitely changing for all of us. But God’s love never changes. Being forced to work in an urban environment sounds just what you need to help soften and move any stuck trauma over the events of the cyclone. I can relate because I was forced to experience a similar change in the past, and found myself feeling exactly the same way as you. When I read your words I could imagine myself doing it all over again.

Love and blessings

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