Posts Tagged ‘independence’

We woke up Monday morning to a perfect blue and green summer day.  Sky was crisp with brilliant puffy clouds, the air fresh and crystal clear, the song sparrow and phoebe having their usual friendly morning conversation.  Our power was out, so it was that eerie kind of quiet, and the rumble from the brook was still loud, but diminished from the night before.  The night before it roared and thundered and sounded like a million freight trains as trees and boulders and debris catapulted through the swirling brown torrent, and our flooding wasn’t too bad.  But now, it was a beautiful morning.

We brewed our coffee with our camp stove, and then decided to drive into town to find cell coverage to make some calls.  Where our brook cuts out to the main road and passes through culverts and under bridges – that was when we got our first glimpse of the destruction.  The road was simply gone in some places, cars slowly making their way past on one lane.  A neighbor’s driveway bridge was demolished – twisted and torn with logs and uprooted trees smashed against it.  Parts of the road were still awash with the brown, mucky water.

In town, the mood was somber, neighbors wandered in shock.  Eyes were glazed, expressionless, quiet comprehension dawning about the enormity of the devastation as folks learned of friends and loved ones whose homes had washed away, businesses flooded and torn apart, beloved historic covered bridges destroyed, some communities totally isolated from the rest of the world with all roads in or out impassable and with no phone or power.  The bright, clear blue sky and fresh, fresh air seemed bizarre, like wait a minute, aren’t you paying attention??!

on Route 12, Woodstock

Hurricane Irene ripped through Vermont, a state with stately green hills, pristine valleys, contented cows, and laced with charming brooks, streams and rivers,  turning those bubbling brooks into weapons and wreaking violence on the landscape. Even in those communities unaffected by the storm, everyone is traumatized by the incomprehensible magnitude of the damage.  It will be years, and maybe not even in our lifetime, before Vermont returns to “normal”.

Vermont’s Public Utilities Company knew the storm was coming, and crews from Texas, Illinois, Missouri, and Ontario had begun arriving by Saturday.  Before the rains had stopped, convoys were heading out as the calls came in.  Some crews were building their own roads to access power lines when town crews were busy elsewhere.  Power across the state has been restored in record time, crews working around the clock.  Within hours, road crews and heavy equipment volunteers were creating detours, making roads safe and passable, re-moving debris.  There is a long way to go, but the cooperation, willingness and determination to pitch in and get Vermont up and running again is evident in every single community.

It is uplifting to read of the many, many volunteers and small acts of kindness extended to neighbors and to strangers.  Well, no one is a stranger this week.  A notice is posted, and the town turns out with work-boots, leather gloves and shovels to help dig out the flooded elementary school.  A family with two middle-school boys riding in the back of their pick-up truck spends the day distributing water in 10-gallon plastic containers.  A man from out of town shows up, and walks the street with his shovel over his shoulder, looking for someone that could use a hand.  A woman on horseback volunteers to carry a bag of needed medicine across a swollen stream where the road is closed, delivering to someone she has never met.  Neighbors and strangers arrive to help a farmer milk his suffering cows by hand, for without power he cannot use his milking machine on his large herd.  A man with a dirt bike offers to take a young man he doesn’t know to check on his grandparents who are stranded far on the other side of a road which is no longer there, without power or phone. A mail person walks her impassable eight-mile route on foot to deliver her mail.  A Pastor visits the Red Cross shelter set up in the High School gym, just to sit and listen.  The stories and tears tumble out.

Vermont is a plucky state, and we will rebuild, and we will move on.  Yet the trauma and tragedy and devastation all around are real and leave their mark.  Vermonters celebrate their stubborn independence and gritty determination of self-sufficiency.  Yet to survive this trauma requires cooperation and receiving help in the midst of vulnerability.  Vermonters are strong.  Yet my prayer is that out of this tragedy may come the kind of brokenness that leads to a yielded strength, the honest sort of humility that Jesus finds precious.  I’d like to share something my beloved JR wrote, as he absorbs the physical violence done to our beautiful towns, and considers the violence that has been done to his own soul many long years ago:

Over time, I have made an on-going choice to stay in Vermont despite the normal hardships associated with long, harsh winters and short growing seasons.  The difficulties are predictable and expected, and my capacity for resiliency and adaptation and creativity have been stretched and deepened in ways that softer locales would not call for.  But this…  This is an assault, and my simplicity and innocence have been violated.  The sense of calm and rest that I draw from so deeply each late summer has been cut off in violence.  Suddenly, I am older in an unwelcome and surreal way, and my capacity to trust in old hills is shaken beyond counting.  Visible sorts of daily graces, the kind derived from living in beauty, have become grotesque.  It would appear that, if I am to again rest within at all, that Something more solid yet than Creation must be sought and found. 

Nickel Mines was a horrible and senseless violation of a beautiful and innocent community.  But there was a perpetrator with a face, someone who could be held responsible and then forgiven.  But this…  I don’t have access to the grace that comes from finding forgiveness, because there is no one with a face to be responsible or forgive.

The images and videos of the wreckage and loss are a graphic of damage already sustained over long years in the otherwise calm water of my soul.  What now is seen has been so, without exaggeration, for a lifetime.  When is something beyond repair, and who decides to make the call that others must then live with?

All the famous attributes of gritty determination and stoic pluck are enemies of what is being revealed beneath and within.  Ancient road beds are undermined, familiar ways of traveling are impassible, and a new and living way must be found – or else being an island, isolated and cut off, is a fresh and selfish choice; anger and defiance the only tenants.





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