The Saltwater Recollections

Letters from the shore

The big ones and the small

I’ve been watching the sun for you,

seeing it color the leaves again.

Bushy ones, and small little buds asking

“When can we begin? Are the days still

spent

melting?”

 

If the snow were only gray, would the pavement

then look pretty? 

If the noise of tv sang, could

the wars be played on stages?

 

I am hardly awake, keeping an eye

out for the sunset, Wishing

for the leaves to change.

The big ones that grow for weeks and

we are so like them.

 

Hardly bigger than a ball of cells, just swimming.

No wiser than my baby laughing

at the light.

 

 

 

It may be the moon.

Still,
at the end of the day
I
feel
like
I’ve let far too many
chip
at
this
precious soul.

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Why time will not help your goals

I make excuses. Down to the painful details. I create reasons why the things I dream of doing cannot be done in my present and must wait until an unforeseeable point in my future.

I am tired of waiting on points in time that pass holding nothing but more time and more waiting.

I want to reach into myself and grab my dreams and chain them to the present. I want to see them in the light of day and expose them for what they are. Beautiful, practical, obtainable things that do not need dirty time and a never ending cascade of excuses.

Admitting there is a problem is a start, but it doesn’t solve the puzzle of how to keep my reality productive. It doesn’t tell me how I am suppose to create the greatest work of my life, feel inspired, and write for the love of writing.

What I know I need: patience because I will not do this in one sitting or two; love from my family, because at times I may become so absorbed within the effort I’ll miss out on being absorbed in them; will to fill my fountain with continuous love and inspiration.

What could help: walks, good food and meditation.

What I do not and never will need is time. It foolishly diminishes the urgency of now and relies on the falsity that there is more to come.

This may be it. So, let’s begin.

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Birthing Harper: My homebirth story

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That night, my husband Jimmy and I were going to cook a simple dinner and hang inside. As the day wore on though, I felt like it would be fun to go out. I wasn’t expecting baby to come, still I was thinking that this weekend may be the last before we were parents. We ended up having very spicy soup and tempeh wraps at one of our favorite cafes, followed by a terrific, though, cold walk. It was on the same beach where we held hands and cuddled under a lifeguard stand during our first weeks dating. This particular beach is very sacred to me and even thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. I still see us on that beach; a new couple, afraid to say the wrong thing or give off any weird vibes, just nervously enjoying each other’s company. I never could imagine that man under the lifeguard stand would be the man, who in just a few hours, would be by my side holding my hand as I pushed our child into the world.

We were back at home, around ten o’clock when my water broke. I was sitting up and heard a pop, then felt a slow river moving around my legs and on the bed sheets. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion: me looking at the water and calling Jimmy’s name and him coming in to see the display of water soaking the bed. We both let out a nervous laugh before I got up and walked into the bathroom. There it continued to come out into the toilet like someone was pouring a bucket of water. I told Jimmy our baby was probably wondering what the heck was going on! I also felt strangely close to that little one, seeing all the water that once floated around its body.

We hugged and kissed each other before the tears came. I told him I was scared. While all my pregnancy I looked forward to this moment, I was in some ways dreading it.  I was frightened of the pain and more afraid that I wouldn’t be able to see my baby born at home.

We both remembered that there were some groceries we had meant to pick up, so Jimmy out while I changed the sheets. This was after I had called my midwife Linda to let her know the news. She sounded surprised and asked if I was having any contraction. As she asked this I felt a tightening in my lower abdomen. “Sort of, maybe. I think?” I answered. “That’s good!” she responded. It was so nice to hear her voice, yet completely surreal that we were having the conversation about me being in labor. I often envisioned the phone call and felt chills that it was happening! She advised me to try to go to sleep, and she would do the same and if nothing came in the morning we would talk about possibly using castor oil to get labor going.

Sleeping was nearly impossible. Not because I was in terrible pain. The contractions I experienced were manageable with deep breathing.  I was more nervous/anxious about meeting the baby I loved so much from within the womb. Our bond was so strong already. How would he/she react in the world, and to me? Would my baby and I have love at first sight? Would it be a bond that needed time to grow? Yes, sleeping was not on my mind one bit, but somehow I managed to get a few hours in.

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Around six am I couldn’t lay in bed any longer. I got up and walked into the living room where my birth ball had been sitting since November. Just two weeks early I sat on that ball, staring out into a big full moon that shined into our living room. It was the night I had some “false” labor. I felt the full moon tugging, but my body wasn’t ready just yet.

Swaying back and forth on the ball, I sat gazing into the darkness of morning. I felt a confidence overcome me. I was ready. Baby was ready. My body was ready. It was time. I needed to get this labor going!

I took a shower, which was rather uneventful. No contractions worth noting. We called our mothers letting them know the news. Jimmy’s mother quickly came over and brought us bagels. She gave me a big terrific hug and told me I was going to do great. I ate a bagel and swayed on my ball. That was when the contractions started to come in longer waves. We kept timing them and found they were coming closer together, first every 15 minutes apart and then by 9am were closer, around 10 minutes.

My ball was my sanctuary. Leaving the ball meant terrible pain that I did not welcome. I felt safe on the ball, so on the ball I stayed. The music playing switched from classical Indian flute to ocean and bird sounds. Jimmy was by my side for every contraction with his arms outstretched which I grabbed onto for support. It felt much better to have my eyes closed and simply sway with the music. I remember saying to Jimmy how grateful I was to be home,  instead of in unfamiliar room with unfamiliar people.

I continued to relax further and further. I felt like I was walking into a dream, and now that I come to reflect on it, this is the part of labor that becomes very hazy.

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I remember Rebekah, my second midwife, coming to check on me sometime around 10. She said I looked great and would give us our time alone until things picked up. I wasn’t sure how things would pick up or what she meant. Contractions were already coming so close together and lasting up to a minute. How much more could things progress? Little did I know I had a looong way to go.

From this point on I remember only moving off the ball once to the couch, which sucked. I tried to relax into the couch but it was too painful so I moved back to the ball.  I remember Jimmy’s mom coming back to bring us lunch foods, though I don’t remember talking to her. I was seriously in the zone. When my mom showed up I snapped a little out of it. I love my mother but she brought so much high energy that it distracted me. I kindly asked her to hang out locally until things picked up. I  also informed her it may be a while.

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(I look peaceful, but laying on the couch only intensified the contractions)

It was when Rebekah came back, around 12 or 1, that Jimmy began filling up the birth tub with water. I suddenly realized there was something better than the ball. Warm sweet water! I walked a little during this time to let gravity do its thing. That sucked a lot!

Rebekah checked me before getting in. I was disappointed to say the least when she told me I was only 2 cm dilated. I felt like my body was doing so much work, how could I only be 2? I guess this is the reason a lot of woman decide not to be checked. It can become discouraging! However Rebekah assured me that was good and I was doing awesome.

Once I got into the water, time ceased to exist (more than it had already, at least), and I lived inside a world of rest and heavy breathing through contractions. It was all I knew from around 1 or 2 when I got into the pool, until 8:30 pm when I began pushing. For many hours I moved within the waters, trying to open myself up and fall into the thrusts of labor. At times the contractions were sheer agony. The sort of pain you cannot prepare for because there is nothing else in the world like it.  Women experience this exclusive sensation, perhaps to make the reward of birth more gratifying, or the tale to tell more interesting.

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I sat with my back leaning on the tub walls with a cold cloth sprinkled with peppermint essential oil on my forehead. This cloth was my very dear friend. It was cooled and on my body at all times, thanks to my dear husband. I remember constant pots of boiling water which were being dumped in the tub and scooped out. I remember asking for water and my husband’s arms constantly. Jimmy was such a source of comfort for me. I knew he would be wonderful, but oh how I depended on him. And he was there, every second of our sons birth, he did not leave my side.

When Linda, my second midwife arrived things had “picked up” as Rebekah said they would. I figured I was progressing when the contraction became completely inescapable. I remember looking out the window and seeing the world. It was a very windy and rainy day. I was wishing I could crawl out of my body into the wind and fly far far away from labor. It had been so many hours, so much deep breathing. I felt trapped within my body. I moaned loudly now, trying to escape. Jimmy reminded me to keep the moans deep and productive, to not get caught up in my mind, to stay in my body. I asked him to help me, because I truly felt like I wasn’t doing it right (as if a woman can labor wrongly). I thought there was something I could be doing better or different.

I was moaning for help when Linda recommended I get out of the water and change positions for a while. Rebekah suggested sitting on the toilet, facing the wall. Like the birth ball, the toilet provided a seat with little pressure on the back which helped the labor pains. Rebekah kneeled behind me and applied counter pressure to my hips. For the first time in hours I felt relief. A woman’s touch truly makes a difference. I did not receive any medications, but her hands were my pain relief during that time.

It was after this Linda wanted to check me. I laid on my back, reluctantly (contraction greatly intensified on my back). She found I was just near complete, but had an anterior cervical lip which was keeping me from progressing completely. I didn’t know what that meant, but know now that the baby was putting a little more pressure on one side of my cervix which allowed one side to complete but not the other. Linda suggested that she hold back the lip and I push. “Push!?” I thought. “It’s time for that?” I thought it would never come. I thought I’d be trapped in transitional labor for the rest of my days, but atlas, there was a point to all of this. I was to push a baby out!

So with the next contraction I let out a push followed by a huge yelp. It was the loudest I think I ever screamed before. When it was over I apologized to everyone in the room, and it explained it had hurt a lot. I think everyone understood.

I did not like pushing on land so I headed back into the water. I pushed in several positions there before I felt like I needed to get out and try something new. I pushed standing while leaning against a table. I pushed on a birth stool. I pushed in cat/cow. I returned to the water, where Jimmy held back my legs to narrow the passage of the birth canal. While pushing here I made a lot of progress and Rebekah could see me opening. Linda had the dobbler on me during contraction to hear the baby’s heartbeat. It fluctuated from 120-130, however dropped low at one point to 109. I had been pushing for two hours, in labor for over 12 hours, and had a bag of waters broken for 24. I was feeling some pressure to get the baby out. But the truth is I didn’t know how to push.

How counter-intuitive, right? But in the moment it felt as if I still was not doing something correctly. Maybe it was just a small lingering fear that snuck into my labor. Maybe, as a first time mom, I truly wasn’t pushing how I should. My midwives seemed to think I was doing great, however that did not stop them from being very concerned about the baby. They told each other that they needed to put a “time on this one.” which meant, x hours or minutes until we were going to the hospital. I was exhausted and becoming overwhelmed by the ticking clock. I asked them what I should do. They suggested I get on land and try a new position.

The position they had in mind seemed crazy. However, I was so passionate to get the baby out that I did it without second thought. It was a warrior 1 type position, one you might do in yoga, except my front leaning foot was on top of my couch and my back lunging leg was on the ground in front of it. Jimmy was on my right side holding both my hands and Rebekah and Linda were behind me.

With each contraction I began pushing. I felt intense burning and pain, yet kept hearing the midwives tell me how great my push was. They saw a bit of the head crown. Rebekah even said she saw lots of hair! This got me going. With every contraction the little stinker would come out and then move back in. At this point Linda and Rebekah became very hands on and began stretching me out to make room for the baby’s head. Somehow I did not feel their hands nor the sensation of the baby descending the birth canal. I simply felt pain. In fact, pushing was the most painful part of labor for me. I think it has something to do with the fact that it was the most active. It involved my complete participation and strength and wasn’t something I was passively experiencing like contractions.

Pushing was incredibly exhausting. It was 10:30 and I told them I couldn’t do anymore. Linda told me I could, and I had to. “You have to push your baby out” she said in such a way that I felt it wasn’t a choice, it was my job. No one could get the baby out but me. Everyone was waiting for the one big push. So I made the next contraction it. I pushed, I pushed again, I yelled, I screamed, I sounded like a tribal warrior and pushed again, and when I thought there was no more I pushed again and again. I heard Jimmy telling me how great I was, I heard the midwives saying “Good. Good. Good” so I kept pushing far after the contraction until I heard that first precious sound. A small cry filled the room and I knew my baby’s head was out in the world for the first time. I pushed again and out came the rest of his body into my midwives arms which quickly became mine.

His eyes were so big. Everything dissolved and all I saw were those big eyes holding my attention and heart. I found Jimmy, and though the room was dim (lit only by Christmas lights) I saw tears coming down his cheek. We both starred into our baby’s eyes until someone asked, “what is it??” Oh yah! We moved a leg over and announced together, “It’s a boy!” Our sweet darling boy. Yes it was love at first sight. Yes he had a lot of beautiful blonde hair. He was absolutely perfect. Within the minute of holding him for the first time all the pain subsided. I don’t remember pushing out the placenta. It sort of just came out without me. I was very high on natural oxytocin. I looked at him in my arms and said to Jimmy “I can’t believe he is here!” Even now, nine weeks later, I think the same thing.

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(Harper’s first meal)

I got into bed where I received two stitches for a small tear, all the while Harper latched beautiful and was eating some colostrum. I felt great, considering all that had happened just minutes before. I was laughing and talking to everyone. I took a shower and ate a big bowl of pasta my mom had made. Jimmy’s mom also came over to see the grandson she had been so patiently waiting for.

At 1 am, our midwives and moms left.  The storm had passed and a beautiful starry night hung over our home. Jimmy and I cuddled into bed with Harper in the middle.  I stared at him in awe that just a few short hours ago he was in my womb, a beautiful little mystery. Now he was within arm’s reach, perfectly made by my body, making the sweetest and softest sounds in his sleep.

I’ll never forget the feeling of laying in my bed, and I think this was my favorite part of having Harper at home. When it was over, I got to lay in my own bed. Other pluses were that I didn’t have to ask someone else to eat or pee or see my baby. I could relax with my husband and my newborn. Bliss—utter bliss.

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Of course it was painful and exhausting. It was everything nature intended it to be. But that day of my son’s birth, is and will remain the best day of my blessed existence. My beautiful sweet miracle.

Preface to Harper’s Birth

My pregnancy came during a huge transforming period of my life. Growing a baby within me was in some ways symbolic to the transformation that I had already been undertaking emotionally. A lot of which began with my experience during the hurricane. But the universe had more ways to show me how to heal and grow.

I took on my pregnancy with a grateful heart. I was one of the millions of woman who had said yes to birth and yes to raising a child. I was taking on the most primitive role we have as women, to be a nest to another being and give that being all the love and all of the care you can give. It was not a choice made lightly, yet it was a choice that was not difficult to make.  I had a dream two weeks before conceiving that I was a mother to a beautiful blonde headed baby. As this baby saw me from across the room it reached its small arms up to me and in that moment of embracing I felt the most purest and intense love I had ever known.

When I told my husband about this dream he told me he had had a similar dream about a baby. When four weeks later we were pregnant I thought about our dreams,  and later saw a rainbow shine on one of the walls in our bedroom. I know rainbows have been used before in people’s lives to represent a new beginning. In many ways I felt that rainbow was there to give me some peace and hope as I began the journey into pregnancy and motherhood.

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We first met with our midwives when I was 12 weeks pregnant. I had seen another group at 10 weeks, but unsatisfied with their approach to prenatal care I searched again and came across a midwife and her apprentice in Jackson, just 25 minutes from our home. They asked why we were choosing to birth at home and I answered very simply: it feels right. I didn’t want to tell her about the amount of research I was doing, which really wasn’t much, or that I actually didn’t have any big issues with hospitals ( I only had been a patient in one a few times and my experience wasn’t terrible). Truthfully, my choice to birth at home was because I didn’t see myself birthing anywhere else. I didn’t see myself holding my baby under bright lights in a hospital gown. So much of my life is intimate, why would my birth be any different?

We left that first meeting feeling very good about our midwives. They seemed tender enough to give me the care I wanted, but appropriately experienced so that if the situation presented itself, they would take the appropriate precautions and transfer me.

With my prenatal care and birth figured out I devoted the next months to me. In the beginning I read A LOT. I read countless books on natural birthing methods and birth stories. I watched homebirths, hospital births, animal births. I became very familiar with the physical process of birth. I felt confident that I would know during labor where I was and how I was progressing.

Emotionally however, I was still grieving from a few events in my life. I wanted to share my pregnancy with someone who had chosen not to share their life with me anymore and that was tough. I cried a lot and expressed my deep sadness to my husband. I confronted my loss to the ocean and tried to mimic the waves and push my worries to shore and move on. Sometimes its simply not so easy to be brave. Its much easier to sit in your suffering and blame the world for your sadness. But no one can take away the pain but you. I had to make a decision to redirect my emotions into something more useful. Everything went into being healthy and taking care of my body and mind for my baby and my birth. I also developed a whole new level of admiration and trust with my husband which still carries us through our times of trial.

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(It took a while before I was visibly pregnant. Here I am at almost 6 months)

As I felt the first few movements within me, and as my belly began to grow, I became incredibly at peace with being pregnant. I actually cannot think of a single moment I did not enjoy being pregnant. Even while I sat in a classroom from September-December finishing my degree. Even as I drove over 150 miles during the week. It never became a burden to me. I absolutely loved the moments of bonding I had with my little one inside the womb. I often tried to envision what the little feet that were kicking into my stomach looked like. Or how the face was forming, or if the baby had hair.

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By the last few weeks I was huge and in awe of my body. That I had grown a baby from a small lump of cells to small human with a fast beating heart was and is a miracle.  I am petite, so if you saw me you would think it was a miracle too!

The baby began descending and it became difficult to walk around Christmas. Someone was getting ready to introduce themselves!

my babies body

His lips are

blood red oranges,

curved in grace,

but know,

its not his lips.

Nor his eyes

glazed in deep sea blue,

a living crystal

but not just his eyes.

Or his breath

in and out on my breast,

I praise his chest

but its not,

simply just his breath.

not just his fingers and toes

that I am still counting.

and slip,

to count each again.

But when we are sleeping

when are magnets keep us touching.

its a piece of something

I forgot went missing.

And that you should have it.

means you were always meant to  be

near me, breath to breath.

yes yes yes

now my baby has a body

ten toes, and lips for kissing.

 

My baby has a body

but always had more than flesh

the flame and the fire,

my baby had me.

Our holiday tree.

We have a small spruce

potted in green plastic. 

bought in a box store with a sale price sticking out from its earth.

wrapped in lights from the window, beside

our one ornament too heavy for any of its branches.

I conceived this tree, when I told you:

“I want to keep a little sprout. I want it to grow with us.”

to be a memory of just beginning. Of new…

oh little spruce,

grow. to what you must be.

sit with the vanishing winter sun.

potted in green plastic,

we grow too.

 

 

 

 

Live

Live for something bigger and greater than yourself.

Ode to the lone tree.

Its a wonder, the lone tree

which at first is so bothering,

that a tree should be alone

in whatever green world we love now.

we love now

careless messy thoughtlessness.

and ideals that all should be alone,

plant, man, be alone. alone.

 

Be alone in your memory

when you were not so distinguishable

a sore thumb upon a hill

but beauty of some whole;

density of wood. A thick leafed canopy to

colors, to bark, to no roads.

 

I see,

still silent and alone appears as

a new sort of wonderful. Evolution

or just some luck, when you take

from the taken, When you grow for things

forgotten. And so its why I love the lone

tree–for so simply,it is me.

 

 

 

What I remember, one year later.

It was not water. On that day, wind was on my mind. Wind that could blow down pine trees like blades of grass. Wind that never silenced like a howl, but marched and marched and marched through two days of time. The world transformed in its sound. Had the air thinned, were we sinking into it?

Peering at the storm through a bedroom window, I found it funny how you can see the same view every day, all your life, and the moment it changes the slightest, the moment the earth acts a little crazy, everything about it is new. Nothing seemed the same. The wind made every branch look like string and at sudden whims you could see them detaching from their bodies and sailing into the air, landing on your car or your neighbors roof. The leaves that had hung lazily a few days before now seem suspended in a constant tug o’ war. It was not water then. It had only been my imagination.

When my grandfather needed milk and bread we got in the car. We took the back roads to avoid the traffic outside of town and stopped at the local corner store instead of the usual big box grocer. We found only wheat bread, which worked for us and no milk, but my grandfather bought some juice instead. Waiting in the line to pay, everyone seemed to be expressing the same grievance—what hype. I also wondered if a week’s worth of groceries was necessary. Once out of the store my grandmother reassured me that “By tomorrow everything will be back to normal”, and I knew she was right. Storm preparation is such tactful way to clear supermarket shelves.

Before heading back home I asked if we could stop at the pier “to see the waves”. At home I felt the strongest urge come over me, my imagination roared at the thought of how the water appeared against this wind. We took the road over the marsh. This road is usually met with such a spectacular sight of long green grass, bright and rich like the English countryside. We fell into a silent shock when we reached the marsh and found it had already been covered in water from the bay. Rolling within its center were large gray waves unlike any we’ve ever seen. Twirling like the eye itself.

We pulled up beside the pier where my grandfather and I decided to walk against the strong winds. It was not prohibited—but it seemed like we were unwanted there. The wind was the waters body guard—the more we forced our way near the bay the harder we were pushed back. Whipped with salt water and dirt we hid behind a message board. I saw my grandfathers face for the first time since leaving the car. He was bright red and his eyes were tearing, but still he was laughing. He had a liveliness to him—in 72 years he not experienced wind like this before and it showed. We ran behind the public bathrooms and from there we could see the waves, fighting one another, grabbing the land. Something was brewing but I could not look at it long enough before turning my head away. We quickly retreated back to the protection of the message board, then into the car.

I’ve been to the bay countless times and know it well. The water was not itself. Why had it taken on such a guise of ruthlessness? For whom was it acting?

Still—it was not water. Once home, I continued to sit by the window and watch the wind move the trees like play things. I listened to its constant march and wondered what others were thinking. Who else was was still near the water? For several hours alarms rang around us and over a loudspeaker a man addressed us—those still in their homes. He told us if we didn’t leave no one would be able to help us. We would be left to ourselves.

The urge came over me again, or perhaps it was a calling. As it began growing darker I wished to see the waves one more time. It was about 4:00pm when I threw my jacket over me and put on my rain boots. I walked the two blocks up towards the bay and found the wind pushing me again. This time I wasn’t going to turn back. I was alone which granted me perseverance and will, that my wish to see the water was greater than the pain of being whipped by wind and water.

I found the entrance between the dunes and crawled to the top on my hands and knees. The wind was so intense here I could hardly keep my eyes open. I felt in the midst of a war. When I saw the bay, I understood why I wasn’t wanted, why it was forbidden. The sight was incredibly frightening. The energy cried disaster. The waves had already consumed the beach and were crashing into the dunes. The water moved in opposition to itself, not uniformly as you suspect on quite placid days. The sky was low; it seemed to be touching the water with its big belly clouds.

I felt it at that moment. Between watching the chaos of the water and the wind pushing me towards the earth. There lied a mission within the water for none to see or know. And in my body it, rang, the water I worship will not comfort me tonight.

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Soon wind became water. Water and more water. It was only a few more hours. A surge took the streets and marched through the homes. It swept into our home from the doors and the windows. From a puddle on the floor to swishing around our ankles. In only a few minutes we found ourselves waddling through waist deep water. Waves in our house capsized the furniture and began tipping the tables. We grabbed the only things we could see, for our mind was not thinking for sentimentalities, only for necessity. I found the bread, juice, and some water— brought it to the top of the stairs. That’s where I measured the flood water. Up one step, up two. I remember shouting to my grandfather “It’s up to the fourth step”, he didn’t answer only handed me boxes of pills and papers to bring up the stairs. And so we worked like an assembly line, carrying necessities to the upstairs leaving behind so many drawers of notes and photos, dishes and food, home movies, electronics.

Everything was left as we looked around one more time at the living room and kitchen now underwater. We made our way upstairs where we waited for two days, watching the water slowly recede back into the ocean.

The world was dark. By candle light I played a small battery operated piano to keep my mind from thinking the terrible things it would think anyway. The families in first floor homes who didn’t leave. Those standing in water. Those retreating into attics. Those out swimming the wind and waves. Those who weren’t safe. I couldn’t get my mind away from them, nor could I stop starring down from the stairs into the black water.

With the wind and water, tangled and sorrowful, I slept within the hurricane.

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