Ladysitting (Pt 1.)
On Saturday, we made our preparations for Hurricane Irene, especially for wind and power loss. We’d driven home the day before from the New Jersey shore. We put away trashcans, flowerpots, lawn furniture; filled jars and bottles with water; took down the hummingbird feeder, washed it, and propped it on the kitchen drain.
“What will the hummingbirds do in the storm?” I wonder.
“Hunker down, I guess,” my husband Bob said. “They have those little nests…”
I made a circle with my thumb and index fingers, maybe an inch and a half across, and imagined it being slammed into the side of the house. We shook our heads.
Our children and grandchildren in Texas sent loving – and knowing – emails. My friend Hannibal called and told me not to park the car under a tree.
We slept on the first floor, because each bedroom is caressed by limbs of tall trees. A magnolia planted too close to the house for sure clings to the front wall up to the third floor; oaks and maples encircle the house. They do not to bend. Even in regular storms, the limbs tap our windows like ancestors.
We also watched the Weather Channel. I marveled to see Vivian Brown, now a full-grown women with two children, whom I’d first seen as an on-camera Barbie doll meteorologist with shiny black bangs in the early 1990s when I was on tour with Black Ice and wondering about the weather in a new city each day. On local news the mayor announced the first State of Emergency in Philadelphia since 1986, which included shutting down the transit system at midnight. Same in New York.
Bob, who is an Episcopal rector, sent an email cancelling Sunday worship at Good Shepherd and announcing a quiet service of Evening Prayer Saturday evening at five. We called as many parishioners as we could manage. And texted a few. We always take a deep breath before that task, but it’s great to do a few times a year. It’s a people/prayer audit: this one’s treatment went much better than expected; these folks are unhappy about some change that happened last spring; this person is grieving the death of a far-away relative. We learn who doesn’t have voicemail; who likes to brave the storm, just for fun; who has experienced hurricanes before and tornadoes.
Everyone had a plan and bottled water. A handful of folks were glad for the Evening Prayer and would attend. Bob picked readings from Job and Paul’s letter to the Romans. The psalm and the canticles exalted God, like, no matter what. We also read the Phos Hilaron, said to be the oldest Christian hymn, maybe the first written after the Bible:
O Gracious Light…
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing praises…
Bob spoke briefly about the connection in Creation between beauty and delight and terror and destruction. I remembered how many times I had argued with the sarcastic voice of God in Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” And how only the necessity of teaching Sunday School had chilled me out. Exalt the Lord. Period, full stop. Find the joy. Live it. Study it. Help children name it and find their way to it on their own. The terror will come. At least until then, we will have lived abundantly.
Part 2 of ‘Ladysitting’, tomorrow…