Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Weather a Storm

Cherry blossoms in winter
copyright: Signe Pike
Today was the first real test for the small ceramic heater – it took ages for my little shed to heat despite the insulation, and there I sat in my wool socks and sweater and slippers, the grey mohair blanket given to me by a friend wrapped overtop of everything as the heater roared full blast, my computer open on my lap, waiting for the storm to come, and feeling more content than ever to simply write.
            Here in the south, our media highways have been cluttered with news of the impending ice storm. Potential loss of electricity and stores sold out of firewood, and I realized that despite any danger, for me there is always something exciting about a storm. I like the preparations, the battening down of hatches, the heaviness you can feel in the air and the utter quiet that falls over our yards and snakes out into the streets, chasing people inside because nature, no matter how much dominion some people think we possess, is still the supreme ruler here on earth, and I never cease to be awed by her power. Good. Make us scuttle, make us scurry. Remind us of the fact that this is not a democracy. Of course I never want to see anyone come to harm. But I think storms can be good; they remind us of our humility. Our humanity. They remind us, when we survive them, of our good fortune—which I think far too often evaporates as quickly as the storm fell upon us, with the appearance of the first sunny sky.
            Storms come into our life because things are beyond our control, and there is a peace in that, if you can find it.
            This past week I mourned the loss of my uncle, a man who was by far my most exacting critic and somehow also my biggest fan. I spent the better part of a week in Maryland helping sort his affairs, because when people go, there is so much doing that needs to get done, and in the quiet moments you lean against something and breathe, and feel your heart crack all over again. Sometimes I feel defeated by it – my aunt, my father’s only sibling, has now lost her husband, and she is terminal too. My heart breaks for her, but not just for her, for everyone who has lost someone, because I have learned too many times in my relatively young life what it feels like to lose someone you love, and knowing that this sort of heartbreak is both unavoidable and in its own way, pandemic, feels like too much to bear.
            But as I sat waiting for the first pounding of sleet to streak down my windows, I realized that these too are storms. There is nothing to control or battle. All you can do is weather it.
            A good friend once told me it is an honor to be present with someone at the end of their days.
            I have come to see that though this is hard, it is true. We can pray for safe passage, we can pray for protection, we can pray for the coming light. But perhaps if we do only these things, we are missing the point.
            Can we learn to honor the storm?
            We can prepare, but can we find a way to embrace it, because of what it brings to us? It is a reminder that life is fleeting and uncertain. And there is beauty in that. Storms remind us that there are powers on this earth we will never conquer, nor should we. This is not the natural order of things.
            We are stewards, not rulers.
            And it is the same on earth as it is within our bodies.
            This week, when I came back to myself, I found I was sitting before my computer, waiting for the storm to come, but I was not afraid. The manuscript that had felt daunting instead tasted delicate, it smelled like home. There was a new comfort in both the words and the feeling of sitting, of channeling and asking the scenes to come, and I thought, if this is what I spend my hours doing, my life has been good.
            I know as the planet groans and shifts we will face many storms ahead, both real and metaphorical. What we must remember, I think, is to do our best in the times in between. Live well, love hard, and offer others pieces of your heart in a thousand ways. That way when storms do come, we can bide them more easily.

            Pay homage to the power of wind, water and atmosphere, be grateful for what we have. And in the heart of winter, a good book, glass of wine, a hot mug of ginger root with lemon, or a game of Scrabble by the fire never hurts too.  


  1. how utterly lovely and humbling.....

    1. Thanks, Sharon... I'm so glad you gave it a read. Hope you're staying warm, too!

  2. "We are stewards, not rulers."
    "And it is the same on earth as it is within our bodies."

    Lovely, lovely, lovely...all of it. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your uncle and am hoping that your family is able to find warmth in these difficult times.

    I find that I relate so much to your writing, and this is no exception. I do believe you're right - there's a peace in realizing that you cannot control the storms of life, but you can learn to weather them as gracefully as possible.

    When my mother's cancer became terminal and I went home to be with her, I found myself constantly praying and wishing and hoping for some sort of desperate miracle that could un-do everything that was happening. I wasn't sure who or what I was praying to, but all I knew was that I wanted some sort of "deus ex machina" moment. Shortly before she passed, I came to an understanding that there was nothing we could do to change the situation, and once I accepted that, and I mean *really* accepted it in my heart rather than just "knowing" it, I learned to hunker down and weather the storm ahead. Losing her was still excruciating, but I stopped putting my energy into an unfounded hope that things could be otherwise.

    As always, nature is our greatest teacher in our daily lives. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "The moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the circumference. It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and every process. All things with which we deal, preach to us."

    Thank you for sharing, Signe! This is a good reminder for us in the dark winter months.

  3. Dear Kristin,
    Thank you for your lovely comment and kind words. And the beautiful Emerson quote. I was only saddened to hear about the loss of your mother. But I am so heartened to hear that you found your way to acceptance through it. Thanks so much for staying in touch, it means the world to connect with likeminded others.