“This is the emergency management office. Effective 6:00 pm today, all residents are asked to voluntarily evacuate. Beginning 6:00 am tomorrow, evacuation is mandatory. All residents are required to leave and seek shelter on higher ground.”
Wow! An order to leave my home and move away from the projected path of Hurricane Irene. I began preparation. The storm seemed to be headed for the New Jersey coast, and was wide enough to impact close-in communities, as well.
So, my husband Bill and I began taking in deck furniture, pulling up outdoor mats, moving barbecue grills to the garage, checking and securing all windows and doors, bringing in outdoor potted plants and garden hoses, moving to the floor anything that might topple over in response to vibrations from 100 mph wind gusts or high winds sweeping through the house if a window broke.
Ah, yes, there was the basement. Ours is like many people’s. It includes finished living space, storage space and it houses the mechanical stuff that provides heat, cooling, hot water, etc. And, like many people’s, it is crammed full of stuff…all tucked away neatly, but oh, still so full. It was a time and energy-consuming job getting everything up off the floor. Once, the floor was clear, we rolled up old rugs and towels and placed them against the threshold of the exterior basement door, comforting each other with the thought that these rugs and towels – all absorbent – might stop water from entering.
With preparation of the house completed, each of us packed a bag. For how many days, exactly? Who knew? Arbitrarily and optimistically, we decided to pack for three days, just in case we were not permitted to return the day after the storm.
We loaded our bags into the car, including some family pictures, identification and important legal papers. We said a prayer of safety, locked the door and drove away.
Despite the pace required to complete preparation and vacate our home, I experienced several truly lovely things…feelings and insights I’ll carry with me.
- First, the outpouring of love from family and friends, near and far, was touching and overwhelming. We received phone call after phone call, text messages and emails, all wishing us safety and peace of mind. Among the many calls, texts and emails were numerous offers to, “Come stay with us. You can stay for as long as you need to.” I loved receiving such openhearted love and concern. To all who said, “Come,” thank you! You blessed us.
- As we rushed about completing our tasks, I had a moment of deep and true recognition that every thing I own can be replaced, a lot of what I own I don’t actually need, and some of what I own, I don’t even want any longer. It doesn’t align with my energy and intentions today, its out of synch with my current expression of who I am and what I prefer. Soon, I’ll let those things go, releasing them to whomever they might serve next.
- Walking away from our home, I had no idea if, when we returned, our home would still be standing fully intact, damaged or totally obliterated. I have to tell you, I was so pleased to experience inner calm and a sense of ease about leaving. I truly let go of worry and did not allow The Border Patrol – that mental menace I introduced in LIES That Limit – to disturb my peace.
- Lastly, about an hour into our drive, I said to Bill, “I feel like I’m on vacation and the only thing I can do is relax.” So, that’s what I did. We stayed with friends and had a wonderful time.
On Sunday afternoon, roads reopened, we headed home. Bill began wondering out loud what we would find. Water in the basement? Missing shingles? Wind damage to the siding? Broken windows from flying debris? Roof leaks we didn’t know we had? Our garden shredded and destroyed by the wind?
What we found: our home still standing, exactly as we left it. We were and are grateful. I hope you and yours were equally undisturbed by the effects of Irene.