After four days without lights and air conditioning, power returned to our neighborhood on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. Our losses were minimal. I’ve followed no news coverage of Hurricane Harvey or anything else, and assume the world conceives of Houston as one massive, water-filled sinkhole. It’s not. Our area, the near northwest side of the city, just outside the I-610-Loop, except for a few downed trees and a caved-in roof, seemed back to normal by Wednesday afternoon. In the sunshine I raked up pine cones, needles, leaves and small branches from the front yard and driveway. It felt good to be doing something outdoors, no matter how futile. The hummingbird joined me several times. The garden has never looked so green. A wrecker towed away my water-logged car, and I will pay a mechanic $400 to tell me whether it can be salvaged.
In the evenings, by flashlight or candle, I read Nabokov, Shakespeare, Janet Lewis and an anthology of Metaphysical Poetry. My fourteen-year-old has a smartphone and he helped me post brief dispatches each day. During the blackout, when I sat in the dark by the large bay window in front, I could see lights burning two-hundred yards away in houses just outside of our cul-de-sac. Neighbors with power supplied us with coffee in the morning and let us charge our various devices. Former neighbors who live nearby invited me to do laundry at their house. Others loaned us a gasoline-powered generator, and still others tinkered with it when necessary.
I’ve already heard from a nature mystic, a modern-day pagan who extolls the hurricane as a perfectly natural phenomenon, nothing to complain about. “People should just get out of the way,” he told me, writing from Massachusetts. “Mother Nature knows best.” Janet Lewis offers a corollary in “A Cautionary Note” (The Selected Poems of Janet Lewis, ed. R.L. Barth, 2000):
“We have long known
His eye is on the sparrow
But let us not be narrow
Let us remember, and remembering smile,His eye is also on the crocodile.”