Hunkering down with a Hurricane and Henry

“Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
If I stay it will be double.”

— The Clash

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this afraid,” I emailed a friend at 6:00 on Sunday morning. I’d been cowering on the couch listening to Irene pummel my house with rain and wind since 3:00. My mantra for the next six hours: please don’t let the tree fall, please don’t let the tree fall, please don’t let the tree fall.

It didn’t, thank goodness, and my home and property were graciously spared any damages. I’m happy to say, I managed just as well — either because of or despite the lack of electricity for several days.

To be quite honest, I was a little sad to see the lights come back on. Some time “off the grid” was a blessing — a chance to read, straighten, think, walk, nap. With no pressure to do anything else.

“Time to just be,” my friend suggested.

It took a while to get there. After the adrenaline of Sunday morning wore off, there was the internet detox to face — what? no email? But that was slowly replaced by a beautiful rhythm – if you are tired, you sleep; if you are anxious, you walk; if you are bored, you read; if you are fidgety, you clean. With no schedule or appointments or ringing alarms to tell you otherwise.

Outside of the iPod Nano, the pitcher of caffeinated ice tea in the fridge, the old-fashioned land line, and the glowing book light, what kept me fairly calm throughout was my little notebook filled with lists.

Thought I would share them, since they pretty much tell the rest of the story.

What to Bring if I Go
in case I decide to evacuate

1. laptop
2. iPod
3. Winnie the Pooh (circa 1966)
4. a necklace from my Grandmother
5. the backup hard drive + photo CDs
6. green tea
7. Walden
8. Emily + cat food
9. notebook
10. address book

What to Do if I Stay
in case the power goes out

1. finish Walden
2. do the Whale Watch collage
3. put photos in photo album
4. straighten the art room
5. read birth chart/astrological report
6. start declutter of office space
7. put laundry away
8. proofread memoir piece
9. weed the garden
10. start The Portable MFA in Creative Writing

What to Do if I Survive
(the storm got very scary at one point)

1. get published
2. travel more
3. work on life wish list
4. write more
5. read more
6. make plans for a fall vacation
7. start taking vitamins again
8. submit memoir piece by October 1
9. spend more time on the screen porch
10. stop watching television

Things to Remember for Next Time
because Mother Nature seems determined to buck us off this planet

1. it takes about 24 hours to completely detox from modern technology
2. turn up the fridge to its highest setting before the storm, things keep cold longer
3. a box of chocolates is a good thing
4. feed the birds, they’re just as traumatized as we are
5. it really does make sense to have an emergency kit prepared
6. even the technology god is fallible; keep your land line
7. hard-boiled eggs are not a non-perishable food
8. cut down the damn tree
9. make a list

• • •

Photos ©2011 by Jen Payne

Top: Long Island Sound still churning after Hurricane Irene passes through.

Bottom: Curling up with Emily and Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

16 thoughts on “Hunkering down with a Hurricane and Henry

Add yours

  1. Marvelous lists, they often made my smile (VERY high compliment).
    Clearly written by a survivor type.
    Happy it was no worse for you, and that you had Emily to snuggle with and keep you brave on her behalf —
    Now you have to remember to take your vitamins ;-)

    1. Well…happy to make you smile today!

      “Survivor type.” You know, I was thinking today, I’d be one of those people who refuses to leave in an evacuation. Me, Emily, some books and those dang vitamins!

      Hope your family is either a) enjoying a nice long visit with you, or b) safely home and fully powered-up!

  2. The What do I do if I survive, list is very revealing. I hope your television wont miss you. I was without internet connection for almost three weeks in June and in serious withdrawal that needed counseling. Had to go to Starbucks for a “fix” once in a while until things got back to normal. Emily looks like an awesome kitty! Cuddling up with her, a good book and emergency chocolate looks like a good way to ride out the storm. Glad you didn’t lose life ‘nor limb.

    1. Not having internet was difficult, for sure. The cold showers were not fun. And trying to figure out what to eat each night was a challenge. But, for the most part, it was not too bad. Quiet. Balanced. Good.

      Hope you’re doing well…been thinking about you!

  3. Welcome back to the world of technology. Your list of “things to remember next time” made me laugh. I especially enjoyed 7 & 8. For awhile we lived on the East coast. There I experienced hurricane Bonnie. In the Midwest, I saw a tornado. Now on the West coast, I felt an earthquake. Thankfully nothing too severe yet has crossed my path. Mother Nature is an powerful thing. I am awed, but also in fear when she flexes her muscle. Glad you safely weathered this storm while enjoying a little time for yourself. Now, go cut down that tree! :-)


    1. Mother Nature is indeed a powerful thing! But the storm was safely weathered and I’m working on the the “things to remember next time” and the “if I survive” lists as we speak!! The hurricane was a gift of incentive if nothing else!

      Stay well!

  4. Thank you for post. As you know one of my sons and his family live near there. I am glad you got through it and so creatively.

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