Should I thank Sandy for my newfound zest for winter?
I don’t know. I hate to credit her with anything.
But just the other day, as I talked to Sandi with an i, she pointed out that I regularly refer to events and states of being as “before the storm” and “after the storm.” I considered calling these so-called eras by their initials, “B.S.” and “A.S.,” but since most of the BS happened A.S., I’d only confuse myself!
So many After Storm moments will always be remembered as such because they are tinted with that post-Sandy pallor. The sand that blanketed our patio now coats our months with a sickly gray. In those first few days, we could not even begin to drain the water or oil out of our home, so I busied myself with a broom, shovel, and hose.
I knew the salt was eroding the pavers, and I could save them. I broke curfew to save them. Ten pm, slinking from our shelter across the street to the tree in the median, furtively checking four directions and affirming the absence of police or military vehicles, and then darting across to my own patio. A frayed broom and banged-up shovel leaned against the house in impossibly inviting poses. The hose, miraculously operational, lay seductively curled in the sand. I picked up each, one at a time, and we took turns dancing the dance of purpose. Scrape, sweep, rinse. Scrape, sweep, rinse. My power was back.
But in post-Sandy life, true power is hard to come by. Though I felt I’d been moving forward, I was actually restoring a patio that would within months crack under the impact of a dropped dumpster. Yes, a dropped dumpster; that is correct. A 20-foot debris box can, indeed, be prematurely released, from 6 feet in the air. You can feel the tremor of the land from around the corner where you are walking your incredulous dog who senses exactly from where on this godforsaken earth yet another semi-seismic event emanates. It rattles the grounds where she sunned, and barked, and protected. For 11 years, Lucy had successfully patrolled the patio in defense of her pack. Now new, unimagined monsters hurl forth from the ocean and plummet from the sky.
We are powerless. We are coated. We may scrape and sweep and rinse as we might, but Sandy is a still-filthy layer between us and the world. All that has happened since is clogged by it, dulled by it—or heightened by the hysteria in the constant scraping and sweeping. Get it off! Get it off! I want to feel again, without the gritty sand dulling my fingertips and muting my heart.
Perhaps that is why I love winter now. It is impossible to say what A.S. changes are actually Sandy-induced, but it does not seem unreasonable to credit her with all of it because her sand is in everything, on everything. Any small opening is soon stopped up with Sandy or the knowing of her, as one might know a personal goddess when she has been displeased. She never pulls back. You live under her power. She taketh away.
But she may also give. Perhaps with age I might have grown to love the wind’s icy pawing of my face somehow, find wonder in the days upon days upon days of bitten ears and stinging eyes and ice-block thighs.
But I believe this is the work of Sandy, my mid-life goddess. She has given me this. I needed winter to slice through the layers left by the storm. Harsh winds dry out the muck and sweep out the stuck corners. I step onto the beach, smack into a wall of ice. It knocks me not senseless but sense-full. My thinking brain freezes, my fear freezes, and I bristle with life. My body is no longer a shell, I am no longer a shell. I am arms reaching out of a shell, I am claws clacking with life. I am eyes on stalks, seeing beyond the sand. I am alive on the beach in winter, laughing with Lucy, making peace with the ocean and air. I whoop at the cold coming off the sea and we lunge through sand like it’s nothing, like it’s ours.
I am loving winter.
Damn, Sandy. I was perfectly happy with spring, summer, and fall. But maybe in the end, true to the word of all you “there’s-a-reason-for everything” prophets, I will turn to my companion, Sandy, and breathlessly utter, “You complete me.”