Friday, September 9, 2011

IN THE WAKE OF IRENE, A WAKE-UP CALL...

Like clockwork, Saturday's ritual begins at the Farmers Market in town... tiny in size, but grand in spirit. Early to rise, the farmers set up their stands, unload and arrange their precious produce on their market tables. Everybody knows everybody, and you can always count on a song to inspire a smile. A complete tour would take all of 10 minutes, but hours are spent conferring with the growers, conversing with the kings. Over the past few seasons, they've all become my friends, my teachers... "The first frost is coming next week. Pick all your tomatoes even if they're green." "Plant deep. It strengthens the roots so that the energy rises to the fruit." They've become, in a way, providers of food and meals as with a small investment in plants, I can satisfy my need to feed from harvest time to first frost and beyond.

September 3rd, a week after the storm, the spirit was grand as ever. In the wake of Irene... amidst loss and devastation,
in communities left powerless and power-less, the mood was dampened but fraught with hope.

This is the face of Irene... her eye weakened to a tropical storm yet fixated on upstate New York and points north... her rage turning trickles into rivers... her ambush leaving a path of destruction.

Hurricane Irene. 08.28.11. Picture is borrowed from Carol Laskos and friends.
This is the face of loss, the face of a praiseworthy hero... a farmer whose market table, rich with nature's colorful gifts, was emptied by the storm... a human being whose market season (this year and possibly next) has come to an early end because of the river's rage. This is one face representing many whose account of the storm riveted... who used his pick-up to rescue, to deliver food, water, batteries... his own generator to those in need... whose new neighbor received her keys on Friday, moved in on Saturday, lost everything on Sunday... a neighbor whom he helped hang family pictures on fallen tree limbs in an attempt to salvage the treasures. Crops... acres and acres taken out by rapids. Top soil was washed away. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments taken by storm. Corn fields that reached for the skies were leveled. Suffocating dust from the dried mud and stench of fuel from boilers in the deluge filled the air.
Dialogue with the growers on this day... "Their won't be anymore corn after today. Onions and garlic, too. No zucchini or squash." "Heirlooms? Not sure. Maybe next week."

This is the mid-summer lushness of my little patch. All of 50'x6' gives me a window to their lives and livelihoods... the blood, sweat, tears and labor that go into growing the healthful foods that end up on our tables. It is through this window that I feel their glories and I feel their pains.

Further north news from a close friend cut off by Irene brought relief that she was safe. Her revelations of the ruins in the Catskills were startling. "Entire towns have disappeared -- gone. There's no way in, no way out," she recounted. "A voice on the radio has been our best friend... 'Carli and her children are on their roof waiting to be rescued. John has extra batteries if anybody needs them. Courtney has found a dog and can be reached at 555-1212.'" Her own voice coming from the depths of a truth that only comes from witnessing the worst, "Black Hawks have been flying overhead in search. The Sheriff's boat couldn't get to the people."
Dreams were obliterated on August 28th. An inconsolable Leland Neff watched his stallion struggle across the rapids to get to his mares -- all 22 horses remain on the missing list. He's walked 40 miles a day in search of his "NY22". I link his story to mine. I keep a lookout for his horses. I pray for him and feel his loss. It's the only way I know to help.


This week's deluge from Lee has made matters worse. In the aftermath, the promise of hope is more powerful than any raging river. "We'll be OK," they say, "We'll recover. A smile and sense of humor will see you through anything." Tomorrow can't come fast enough. The Saturday ritual will continue. Blue skies will prevail.
 

1 comment:

Debi@7Gates said...

I just sat and read this so sadly. I pulled up the story about Leland's horses; please update me and tell me they have found them. I was at our farmer's market this morning and the memory of your post went with me. I am just filled with sadness. I can't imagine the feeling.