Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and More

Wow, hurricane Sandy is really beating up the east coast and a big part of the midwest and central Atlantic states. A huge storm some 900 miles wide. That's wider than the drive from Denver to Dallas. Glad I'm in Colorado and not back on Long Island where I grew up. I have a cousin back there who lives only a quarter mile from Long Island Sound, and I hope his home is ok and that he and his family are also. He's probably without power.

And my cousin Jackie, who grew up in the house right next to ours, lives in Rockaway, NJ, about 25 miles west of NYC with her daughter Donna. I worry for them as that area is also hard hit. I doubt they have much water from the ocean, but I'm sure they have lots of rain and the creeks and rivers in that area will probably flood. And they are all without power, I'm sure.

Watching pictures of the hurricane on the news last night took me back to my childhood on Long Island. On September 21, 1938, a hurricane which became known as the Long Island Express, hit LI with very little warning. Back then, we didn't have airplanes flying through storms to track them, and communications was pretty much limited to the radio. Hell, we didn't even have a phone then.

I was only 2 1/2, but the storm is my first recollection as a child. My sister was just a few months old and my parents were in this little two room house way out in the country, on a country road that only had a few families living on it. I remember the wind and suddenly a panel dropping out of the ceiling, I think probably a hatch into the attic, such as it was. I suspect I remember that incident more because of the fear of my parents than the actual details of the storm.

I also remember when I was probably about eleven or twelve climbing up into my favorite tree, getting as high up in the branches as I could, to sway back and forth as a hurricane passed by. I probably came down when it started to rain, but I remember that sense of joy and freedom as the wind tossed me around in that tree top. Of course, I had no idea how powerful and dangerous the storm could be. My recollection of the LI Express didn't register I guess.

The storm should remind us, but it's hard to remember anything when we have our collective heads in the sand, that global warming is causing more severe weather events, hurricanes, tornadoes, snows, rains, floods, droughts. We have an uncanny ability to ignore the shorter duration of polar ice in the Arctic and the melting of glaciers the world over, and just focus on this quarter's earnings statement and the size of our car and house compared to our neighbor's. Here's a poem I wrote about that a couple of years back.

Another minor extinction

Fire and ice created and carved 
the earth. In these natural cataclysms 
families of creatures whose lives
depend on stable environments
became extinct by change
from hot to cold, cold to hot. 
During the past five hundred million years, 
Change has caused five major 
and many minor extinctions. 
The major ones wiped out most creatures. 
The minor ones were hardly noticed.

Extinctions still go on, but today, fire and ice 
play bit parts in them. Man has devised 
destructive engines that may well lead 
to his own demise.

When man is gone, fire and ice 
will continue to create and carve 
the earth. Great extinctions will happen. 
Will others creatures wonder where 
that toxic, two-legged biped went?

They will note it as a minor extinction 
in the fossil record.

Speaking of poems, I had two recently published in an online journal, Open Window Review. The issue was on about veterans, so I sent them several poems. One has had several people comment on it, so I'll include it here. I've been to The Wall twice, and both times a very emotional experience as I found the names of friends, classmates, and comrades in arms etched on it. 

Washington, D.C., May 1995

Careless gusts chase clouds and tear
too soon the cherry blossoms
from their boughs.
Petals, whirled in the maelstrom,
are spilled free to sink and form
a pale pink pool
along the black wall.

The granite, scarred with names,
mirrors the pink in its ebony shine,
a reminder of blossoming lives—
vulnerable, fragile, young —
blown by the careless maelstrom
of their spring.