Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cue the Music from Rocky

My garden was going along great. I had some popcorn starting to tassel, some sunflowers, the carrots were struggling a little, but doing OK.  My okra was strong, and I even had some cotton pushing through the tangle.

And then we had the storm.

Monday morning, we had winds gusting up to 110 mph in places.  I watched out the window as windblown debris smashed into streetlamps, making them explode in a shower of sparks. We had almost three inches of rain in less than an hour, and five tornadoes were reported within the metropolitan area. 

I had friends with real damage.  The only casualty we had, however, was the garden. Everything got flattened.  Not ripped out.  But everything - and I mean everything - was pushed over and laid down.

The horror!  The horror!

There were other items to take care of yesterday, and so I did not tend my garden.  Kathe worked pretty hard on the opposite side, shoring up roses, propping up hibiscuses, cutting back angels trumpets and cleaning up the debris.  But I left my okra, sunflowers, corn and cotton to their own devices.

This morning, I went back to my plot and smiled.  (Cue the theme music from Rocky).  My corn had gotten up off the mat.  

Every single plant that had gotten blown over, flattened by the storm, had its nose (well, figuratively speaking) pushed in the dirt, and seemed broken, beaten, and done....

And every last one had started to turn upright.  Not from the roots - those were still twisted in the dirt.  But the body of the plant - the stalk, the stem, the trunk - all of it had started to twist itself upright.  Some of them were pulling themselves upright solo, while some were being held up and pulled upright by their neighbors.

Seriously, somebody cue the music.

See, that is what happens.  I can go in with string and tape and supports and prop up the corn.  I can lift the stalk out of the dirt, and give it a better foundation by compressing the soil around its roots at the base.  I can add mulch and soil and tamp it down...

But the end results are no better than letting them rise.

I know this feeling well.  I had roots in the archaeological academic community.  The roots were shallow, but extensive.  And the storm came, and I was uprooted.  The people around me - my work colleagues, my friends, my family, my church, my wife - all helped me stand back up.  My posture is still not straight.  You can see the scars from the wind, and I don't stand up as straight as I once did.

But I am stronger than I was.  And I am up off the mat.  With the help of people around me who love me, I am even better able to withstand a storm than before. Even more importantly, I am already more prepared for the next storm - my body and mind are already streamlined to let the winds blow past and over, rather than simply resisting, fighting, and getting beaten back down.

I see that in the community around me, too.  For all of the insanity that goes on in Louisiana, I have seen people here who are more resilient than anybody, anywhere.  They get knocked to the mat, nose rubbed in the dirt.  Repeatedly told they are not worth the cost of rebuilding.  Wetlands carved up for profit.  Toxic waste and prisoners dumped in the state (seriously). Political powers, who look away from the issue of climate change, while lining their own pockets.

And still these guys pull themselves upright.  They fight their way up off the mat.  And each time, they shake off the blows, rebuild their community.  Leaning on each other. Helping their neighbors rise, too.  Go back to work.  Come home to rebuild again.  Urging one another to buy from the local drug store that got hit, and in the process re-investing in the community.

It is not that they don't need a helping hand.  No matter where it is, Haiti, Nepal, Indonesia, New York City - everybody needs a hand up when times are bad.  A way of fighting back against what are both natural and institutional odds.

But the magnificence of watching that community rise back from the receding floodwaters, and build back more resiliently than ever?

Cue the music.

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