My phone is pinging like popcorn with all the family texts. Hurricane Idalia is our cause for concern. I can hardly take my eyes off the TV news because I have family on the west coast of Florida where Idalia is storming through with wind, rain and a King Tide surge. Yes, it’s a full moon over hot water. My brother and his wife are hunkered down in Naples, which is still recovering from hurricane Ian. Yesterday my dad evacuated his home on Florida’s Big Bend north of Tampa. He’s 90-years-old driving away from the weather in a car packed with his life’s essentials, not knowing how long he’ll be gone or what will be there when he returns. And we are the lucky ones.
On another front, for the past few weeks my home in the Pacific Northwest has been shrouded in wildfire smoke. There are dozens of wildfires in our region, most started by lightning striking drought-stricken forest. The wind swishes smoke for hundreds of miles around us, trapping it between the mountains, pushing layers of yellow air into the valley. This was a new experience for me the first time I saw it in 2018, and it took a lot of explaining for friends in other parts of the country to visualize the problem. Now the smoke from wildfires in Canada has billowed south far enough that most people in the U.S. have some experience with wildfire smoke, the dry fog, the red sun, and ash settling on their stuff. Still it’s just smoke. We are the lucky ones.
In what seems like a continuous flow of calamity, so far my family and friends have had no major losses. But we know that could change. I remind myself to stay physically nimble and mentally alert. We are prepared. We have the skills and resources to evacuate. Cars, cell phones, essential possessions, driver’s license, cash, credit cards, motels, Egg McMuffins, and loved ones waiting to help. Those are the resources of a lucky family. But the lesson of Maui is time. People there may have had the same resources as us, but they perished because they had no time. A cautionary tale for us all.
Of course, like you, I’m nostalgic for the bygone era when catastrophe was not ordinary; when ordinary situations had dependable outcomes that made us feel normal and made the future seem reliable; when the seasons changed like clockwork in harmony with the land; when talking about the weather was mundane, trivial, boring, when wildfires were unknown to us. But there doesn’t seem to be any ordinary weather anymore. So, I’m counting my lucky stars. When I can see them.
Rain is in our Oregon weather forecast for tomorrow and just seeing those little blue numbers on my weather app is comforting. If it rains a real rain, I’ll go outside and stand in it just to feel the raindrops on my face and remind myself that many things in life can go pear-shaped and yet I persist. I have the good fortune to be here now. This is my life. I take steps to see that my good fortune is resilient. I do wish to persist as a fortunate person. I do marshal my intelligence and my technology and my relationships to serve my self-interest. I work at being successful. But shit happens. And it’s bound to happen to me. And I may not be ready for it when it does because that’s just how life is. Bad things happen to good people. So chirping here about being fortunate is just me reminding myself to mend the holes in my safety net and savor the good times. Because being one of the lucky ones is an uncertain gift.