As Hurricane Matthew strengthens toward a potential category 5, lumbers up toward Florida from the south threatening the entire east coast of the state and further north, I am glued to the TV. This is why I have TV, to watch weather unfold in real life from the safety of my impermeable living room, marveling at all the threats our world faces from the climate’s gradual angry rumbling shift into a more fretful atmosphere.
I watched hurricane coverage off and on all day yesterday as well, and only after watching again this morning as the urgency there ramps up, do I now feel the tension in my own body, from simply watching the anxious newscasters and dramatic graphics and videos on TV. Footage from Haiti has just begun to emerge onscreen and it is grim.
I’ve been trying to learn for years the practice of embodied meditation, in which you identify the felt sense of inhabiting your body. This meditation typically starts with the feet, and moves upward, through the lower legs, knees, etc. It’s been quite a challenge. In college I was quite confident with my self-assessment that my body was simply a vehicle for my mind, or soul, or whatever I thought inhabited only my head. Sadly for me, that disconnection resulted in painful knees when I tried bellydancing at 28, and only went downhill from there for decades. As I try to learn to feel and hear my body’s messages with the sensitivity and depth I now know is possible, I am caught up in the weather drama thousands of miles away, and when I step outside I feel my body’s surprise.
Outside my adobe walls lies a perfect, quiet autumn day. A couple of jays tease one another in the split juniper that frames the landmark Needle Rock, sometimes glowing in sun, sometimes in shadow relief against the sunlit mountains behind it. A raven circles overhead slicing the air, now a pair; they’ve been teasing the dogs. They circle again as I acknowledge them, then move their spiral south. A few sandhill cranes with ancient calls; crickets. The peace of this calm oasis of serenity has an immediate soothing effect on me when I step out into it from the turbulent hurricane inside my home.
Flowers still bloom in clay pots lining the flagstone patio, bright snapdragons, dahlias, petunias, and pansies in bright sun, then shade, as low cumulus clouds gather and stalk overhead. We might get some rain or snow showers today, but across the country a monster storm has been wreaking havoc and killing humans across the Caribbean; it now threatens Florida with the potential for true catastrophe.
My heart is with the helpless. People are struggling to find safe havens for their animals if they can’t take them where they’re going, or they’re leaving behind their pets with neighbors who won’t evacuate. I know people at several zoos in Florida, all of whom will be frantic by now endeavoring to keep their animal charges safe. Then there are the native wild creatures of the coastal lowlands. This storm is likely to redistribute certain species (during Hurricane Andrew, thousands of exotic wild animals escaped their various cages at breeding and import centers, pet stores, homes, zoos and roadside attractions; of the birds, snakes, lions, and others that were liberated, several species have survived to change the landscape of south Florida), and also wreck habitats and outright kill individuals and possibly even populations in coastal lowlands.
Of course, we are all helpless, even humans, in the face of nature this fierce. Hurricanes, tornadoes, these climatic events exemplify the word inexorable. We simply can do nothing to stop, slow or redirect them. In Melbourne where my aunt and uncle live, and where the storm surge could reach ten feet or more, it will be a tsunami through the canals that flow among neighborhoods along the inland waterway. I wonder if all the retired officers and their wives who live along the space coast are evacuating? He’s a General, he will have followed orders. I’m sure they’re safe somewhere.
I take in the peaceful autumn of my world… it is chilly, and now the sun’s gone behind gathering clouds. I don’t want to be outside, it’s too cold. But I have noticed in no uncertain terms that my body heaves a huge sigh of relief, and releases all that hurricane energy filling up my house, my mind, my body, when I step outside. And I can feel it stirring me up again when I step back inside, where the TV announces the latest trajectory, evacuation orders become more imperative, and the true magnitude of this storm begins to impress itself upon people. My heart is with all inhabitants in the past and future path of this hurricane.