Let these fill your thoughts for a moment:

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Irma

To name just a few of the most recent.  I spend a week in St. Maarten every December with my employers and my niece.  St. Maarten is a study in contrasts, as are most islands in the Carribean. Breathtaking views, ocean blues, and waves.  Restaurants dotting beaches, and harbors.  And the little that the people of St. Maarten have.  The ramshackle shacks, the mind bending traffic and the feel of being just a breath away from ruin. Now, devastation like I have never seen.  People unable to evacuate because they live on an island and the other nearby islands are in the same horrific state.  I’ve poured over pictures.  Seeing the familiar signs but with the topography forever changed.  Some places unrecognizable from the delightful places where I’ve soaked up sun and surf.

The horror from Harvey is just as devastating except for one thing.  These people on St. Martin has so little to begin with and now even that is gone.  They don’t have the infrastructure that the US does.  To rebuild, let alone restore power, and water, people must come from off-island.  Building supplies, water, food, all must be shipped or flown in. And these people have lost their income for the foreseeable future as well.  They are dependent on tourist dollars to survive and to rebuild.  But now despair, and fear rule the country, especially when the sun goes down.  The French and Dutch armies have arrived.  Tourists are finally being evacuated to safe places.

So while Harvey and Irma were awful, water could be trucked in from neighboring states.  Power company employees from other states were quickly on the ground to help restore power.  FEMA, insurance companies are already working to financially help people.  It isn’t pretty and rebuilding will take months but they still have help that the islands don’t.

My employers say we’ll still go, if it is safe, in order to pump some money into the economy.  It is hard to imagine power, water and communications being restored in a few months time.  It is hard to see how order will be restored when their collective psyche is of fear, need and despair.

I can’t look away.  I feel like to look away is to deny the reality.  To be comfortable in my privilege and think, “that is too depressing”.  Yes, yes it is.  Imagine living it.  I have given financially to help in the smallest of ways.  And wish there was more I could do.

Yes, my heart is heavy.  I found this.  I keep going back to it.  To the images it raises and the peace it speaks of.  Then I return to the news to bear witness.

 

Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s might be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds,

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I reset in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Barry

 

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