Saturday, October 29, 2005

Katrina, Wilma, and Shirley

It has seemed to me for the last several days that nothing worth writing about has happened. Finally I decided that if I waited for something exciting, I could be waiting for a long time. So here I am, thinking about the recent past and trying to remember how I have spent my days. It has turned into Fall, with two hurricanes ushering in the season. We have had only rain and high winds, but other parts of the country have been devastated. The worst natural disaster in memory has made communities of refugees who have lost everyting. Disaster relief, which we have taken for granted in this country, was and is slow in coming. People are suffering in ways we think of as happening only in the third world.

I read about these terrible situations where people are living in crowded shelters without water and toilets with mild interest, not being able to believe in them. It struck me the other day that Carrie and Gabe may have been caught in the storm during their trip to the Carribean, but I can't believe this, either. Surely the storms missed them. Certainly by some lucky stroke they are somewhere where the sun shone on their whole vacation. Nevertheless, there are times when I find myself chewing my fingernails and feeling dread in the pit of my stomach. I wait nervously to be sure my fleeting fears are unwarranted.

David was hit hard in Ft. Lauderdale and he and Thom are still without electricity. They can not get gas for their car. Luckily they got a generator before the storm hit so are in relative comfort compared with the poor in the same area. They have had to absorb the bad news that Thom's cousin Shirley has been diagnosed with cancer and is in the hospital. I have spent time with Shirley and like her, so this is unsettling for me, too. I am in the process of painting a portrait of her that David and Thom are planning to give her as a Christmas gift. I have it in my new studio, where I pass by it many times a day. Shirley smiles out at me from the canvas, innocent of the news she has just received. The painting of her is of a happy woman. She has given herself over to the moment, eyes crinkled against the sun, hair shining and blowing slightly in the ocean breeze of Gleason's Cove. Her hard life is somewhere else, and the world is a giddy, care-free place. I find the painting touching, and hard to look at. I don't know how my knowledge of her illness will affect the rest of the work I have to do on it. I hope I can keep her the way she is now.

My days are passing slowly as I try to absorb the changing of the seasons It is always difficult for me no matter how I profess to love having four distinct times of year here in New England. Darkness comes early and will come even earlier after this week-end when daylight-saving time goes back to standard time. Yet I know I will feel just as disoriented when the days get longer, after I have become used to the cozy dark afternoons when I cover myself with an afghan and read under a lamp while the snow blows outside. Change is always unsettling, more so as I get older because it is so familiar. Each time the winter comes, it comes sooner.