Earlier this week I watched and waited as Sandy took her tool on much of the East. Canada was lucky - New York City and parts of the US coast not so much. As I watched the Twitter feeds, surfed the breaking news and hoped the radio would bring me the latest I was reminded of storm watching when I was a kid.
In Hong Kong, we were frequently hit by typhoons (the Pacific equivalent of a hurricane). Granted, ours never took on the size or power of Sandy, Irene or Rita - but there were still devastating and would cause total shut-downs the most vibrant city in the world. Landslides, beach roads washed away, boats sunk, small children washed out to sea; the power of nature would slowly be revealed, first through massive waves and wind and then by the stillness as you enter the eye of the storm. There is something incredible about sitting in the eye - venturing outside as the world quiets, destruction around you but a stillness as everyone, including the storm, holds their breath. As a small child I was terrified and in awe of these massive storms that would sweep over the tiny little colony.
In Hong Kong in the 80's and 90's there was no internet, there was no way of capturing real-time updates across the city. There was radio. A typhoon was the one time we had the radio on all day, listening to the warning signals, the landslide warnings, the opening of emergency shelters and the exact location of the storm. My family would track it on a laminated map my parents had made, comparing it to the last typhoon and wondering if we would take a direct hit. And then after the hit, we would listen as the world woke up to deal with rebuilding or salvaging. We would drive to the marina and count how many boats had sunk, we would drive past hills that had slipped away or beach roads covered in sand. Despite the wonders of human ingenuity and engineering, nature usually won a few solid points.
When I think about storms these days, I think about the storm metaphors we use. I do think storms are an incredible metaphor for life - these are reminders that we need to be ready, we need to be resilient and that we will be hit, occasionally directly. Storms are an opportunity to rebuild and re-evaluate and I feel that I am in the eye of one right now. I am slowing down, I am looking around me and I am trying to make some life decisions that have been precipitated because of storm-like turmoil. I know things will be messy on the other side as well, but that the opportunity to create something new and better is only possible after a massive storm because we are often given a clean slate. These are hard times, but can be rewarding - reminding you what is important and that we are lucky, so very lucky to come out of the eye.
I miss a good typhoon. I am sure that this is a terrible thing to say as Sandy is still too fresh and there is so much work to be done to rebuild, but it is also a humbling reminder of our place on this planet and how nature can't be controlled. And a kick-in-the-ass reminder to stop taking things for granted and start rebuilding.