I was once in the eye of a category four hurricane. It was the most beautiful and most dangerous thing I have ever done.
Late 1990s, I was living in North Carolina with relatives while I attended an art school for film. It was the hot, muggy summers where you didn’t want to step outside the door unless you had a deodorant stick taped under your pits. Wilmington is a hotbed for hurricanes. There’s something about the little coastal town that attracts Mother Nature’s biggest storms.
Hurricanes start out slowly. A gust of wind that gets stronger and more sustained. Leaves and small bits of debris swirl around the front yard. The branches of trees bend in one direction only to sway and bend the other direction, like some weird toy in a toddler’s hand. The sound of birds fade. Other than the sound of the wind, which is starting to sound like ocean waves hitting the beach, it is quiet outside. The skies fill with clouds and then darkness falls over the land. It feels like midnight at 3 pm. There’s a pitter-patter of drops as the rain starts to fall. The pitter-patter upgrades to what sounds like a faucet left on. This changes, drastically to a whooshing sound, as if your house has been relocated to a plot of land next to a raging waterfall.
It was in the middle of the raging waterfall downpour, tree bending wind gusts and dark as night when the most unusual thing happens. When things were at their peak, their darkest, the eye of the storm passed over our house. In the middle of the chaos, there is light. There are no winds. I heard the birds chirping. Even with the neighbour’s outdoor fridge floating by in the lake we once called our cul de sac, I had a glimpse that there was a touch of normalcy heading our way.
The few minutes I was outside, my whole body was on alert. This little break was not the end of the storm. The other side of the eye was fast approaching. We would not have the gentle build-up to the raging water, tree bending wind gusts and pitch-black skies. In fact, we would be thrust back into over 100 miles/hour winds in a blink of an eye.
I could see the trees in the distance start to radically bend right or left as the swirling mass made its way our way. The deafening roar of the storm gave the impression that a freight train was headed for our small apartment – and so was I. I made it inside, locked the door and felt when the category 4 hurricane slammed into the wooden panel behind me with enough force to knock dishes off the table and picture frames off the shelves.
It’s easy for us on the Coast to be lulled into a sense of false security. We are only feeling the gusts and pitter-patter of light rain as the hurricane slowly makes its way to our slice of paradise. It would be easy for us to be lulled into the idea that COVID-19 won’t come here. We may even step out in the middle of the storm, thinking that it is all clear. That freight train has passed.
We will miss the signs that it is about to hit us harder than we know.
Take time to admire the beauty and splurge in the downtime the storm offers us. A chance to connect with family or work on projects around the house. Use this time to learn a new language, watch opera or take a virtual museum tour being offered online.
There is beauty in our world, even in the darkest hours. And wait out the entire storm.