Monday, November 12, 2012

Off the Grid


For the first time my camera has failed me.

As photographers, we are observers. We stand aside and document. I think of the process more as translation. I try through my lens, to show you what it feels like to be here. The sights of the last two weeks my camera could not translate. In fact, I hardly reached for it.

I live in New Jersey - about an hour from the shore and the same from New York. Now let me be very clear - while my county is said to be the third worst hit (after the shore and Staten Island), we are not even close to experiencing the devastation they are living through. We have not lost our houses. We have no fires. We are safe and alive. Most people here have resources. We are simply inconvenienced. And that's a big difference.

Oh I took a few Instagram pictures of the trees that have fallen around us - trees that are older than our country, and three stories high. Their root balls are twice as tall as I. But on IG they look inconsequential. It just looks like we need to get our chainsaws out. Why don't they translate? My conclusion is that it's not about the trees or the damage. It's about the feelings.

On Monday night I heard a ROAR! I opened my kitchen door and heard locomotives circling my house. I heard large trees CLACKING together, and loud CRASHES as they fell. I now understand the phrase "HOWLING WINDS." My window that's missing a latch kept flying open. Like Dorothy, I had to run out into the pelting rain and kick it, finally nail it shut. My single friends and I had considered getting together, but we had all been through blizzards before - and we all preferred to tuck into our houses and hibernate for a few days. We decided not to. None of us expected trains and falling trees! It was terrifying! So when we made it to morning with our houses still standing, we felt like survivors. It wasn't the damage - it was the FEAR we'd survived. You can't take a picture of that.

Then came the isolation. I had live electrical wires down at each end of my road. I had no communication with the outside world for days. There was no commute, no work, no mail. No newspapers, no internet, no phone. There were no lights, no heat, no flushing toilets. (There still aren't.) My large and varied world was reduced to the 8 houses on my street.


A knock on my door - a neighbor I had never met saying they had a generator providing hot water. "We love animals. Come up, bring your dog, shower, sleep in our extra room. Do you need anything?" Door to door they went with the same offer to all of us. And although I declined, when I returned from a walk later there were 4 gallon jugs of water and a bag of dog food on my porch. No note. I mentioned I had no gas. ( I had been away all weekend and was ill-prepared). Two days later they drove under some wires and got out. They returned with gas - for me.
My other neighbor gave me daily showers, and knitted me a scarf by the light of her fire. She had cooked before the storm and brought me cranberry bread and chicken pot pie which I heated on the grill. In a 2 hour gas line a few days later, a woman knocked on my window. She and her son had trays of coffee, tea and hot chocolate - no charge. Ding! A cell phone text - "I have coffee - come on up." My sisters texting daily from out of state about what was going on to help us -  bringing information, news. I didn't see any pictures until yesterday. My local friends and I texted daily sharing resources -"do you need help?"  You can't take a picture of that.




And then there were my FOL life-sisters. Claudia was the last phone call to get through to me as the storm moved in. She said everyone here at FOL was worried for Judy and I. "We love you. Let us know somehow that you are alright." At the warming station at the library yesterday I finally got a very slow internet connection and was able to go to our FOL team page, where we communicate. As I scrolled down, catching up with the comments from the past week, they were all about me! Judy had been able to get through, but I hadn't. "Have you heard from Carol," Is Carol OK?" "Can you pass on any information you hear?"
By the time I had read the last one, tears were streaming down my cheeks right there at the library. It felt like I had travelled from isolation to love and community.  In the last few years you have all gone from being "screen friends" to being real people. Now you are all family. You may never understand how grateful I feel to know you all. You can't take a picture of that.


Thank you with all my heart.




LONG LIVE THE JERSEY SHORE!





28 comments:

Dotti said...

Oh, Carol! This is such a chilling account of your storm experience. Oh, my. The isolation is the worst, isn't it? But times like this seem to bring out the best in most people and it certainly sounds like you have wonderful neighbors. Bless them all. And gratitude this morning because you are safe and now back in your home, putting your life back in order. It will never be the same ... but it can be better.

Big hugs ...

AFishGirl said...

You showed it all so eloquently in your writing of the experiences and the kindness and love and support. I can see all of it. Wishing you peace and respite to recover from all it has meant.
oxoxo Fishgirl

heyjudephotography said...

Carol, I am, (we are) so glad that you are safe, and now soundly back in your own home. What a frightening experience, and then the isolation.... ughhh the isolation. I know exactly what you mean by the photos just not translating the feelings. The area where I live had damage, but I took ONE photo - from my iPhone. Just one. My husband even asked me why I wasn't out shooting pictures. Your words fit perfectly...it just didn't translate the feelings of it all. So glad you're back with us, so glad you felt our love and concern.

terriporter said...

You can't know how much it warms my heart to have you posting today! It seems like a month that we've all been so worried and now you are here. I can only imagine what this experience must have been like but your words paint a picture that a photo couldn't. Being clear across the country, I found that a few days after the storm, people were actually moving on with day to day life and forgetting that so many people were still without power, some without homes. I wanted to shake them and say, "Hey, it may be over for us but it's not over for them! I have a friend who is still without power, without heat, without a way to leave her home!" But I guess that's human nature -- you pay attention at the time, feel bad for the people who are affected and then forget about it. But it's also human nature to reach out and help when you can and it sounds like your neighbors did just that. I hope you know how much we were all hoping and praying for you. So glad you are once again here with us.

kelly said...

hi carol. i'm so glad to hear that you are OK. it's always amazing to me how these kinds of things bring out the best in people

i can totally identify with your situation. we had a terrible ice storm here in tulsa a few years ago. a huge tree fell on our side porch and there were downed trees and powerlines everywhere. no way in or out of our neighborhood for a couple of days. no power for over a week. like you, neighbors banded together. one would bring take out from other parts of town less devastated. one would make gas runs for the generators. such an amazing thing to feel so much community.

i have discovered that whether it's the kindness of your next door neighbors or an online friend sharing words of love and concern, it's all the same. it's all community. it's all wonderful.

sending lots of prayers for you and all those impacted. love, kelly

Carol said...

Thank you so much, Kelly - it really means the world!

Carol said...

I don't feel there will be long term effects for me personally - other than hop0ing that the shore comes back - but it was an experience of a lifetime. Thanks so much for caring. Got electric back lat yesterday (Sunday) and water pump reprimed after that. My house is a mess - but I', back in business. Thanks for your care

Carol said...

Thanks so much Pam - I feel like a baby telling my little story - when so many others are impacted for a lifetime - but iy was quite a couple of weeks! Thank you so much for your kind words, and your wishes for Peace. I feel the love!

Carol said...

Hi Judy - Back from the edge! Got power and water late yesterday! Feels luscious to take a warm bath . Your texts during it all were so kind and encouraging - thank you so much. Hope your neighborhood has emerged too - you are doing a wonderful job cooking for everyone who can't - you're one of those good neighbors/angels - Take it from me - it means a lot!

Carol said...

Your right Terri - it's just human nature - we all move on when we're not involved - but when you're in the midst - good things happen, Michele - who posted here as a guest a few months ago, lives on STaten Island. She started by putting out food and plugs, and then people started donating things - she is now running donation centers all over - working tirelessly. I will post her site later ( after I get permission) for anyone nearby who wants to help STaten Island . Miclele has been tireless.
Thanks for your concern and care Terri - so grateful

Patti said...

I am so sorry for what you have been through. I have tears running down my face because it is so wonderful to hear how your neighbors helped one another. I am sending prayers.

Olivia Fulmer said...

I am so glad to hear that you made it through the storm safely! I know exactly what you mean that the camera cannot capture the emotions that you feel. I have lived through two disasters--we lost our home, not once but twice--to house fires. I cannot capture the devastation that you feel when you know that you've lost something that cannot replaced exactly as it was. I'm so thankful that you did not lose your home, though. I know what you mean when you describe the way your neighbors pitched in and helped even as they were going through the same sorts of things. How wonderful it is to have folks around you who will be there for you, to take care of you, to "feed" you not merely through the physical food but with friendship and love. Take care. Hugs to you!

Viv (modifica) said...

So glad you are all OK We watched the devastation on the BBC news and it was awful to see what Sandy did. I can't imagine what you went through my thoughts are with all of you on the East coast .....

Kim Stevens said...

Carol, that was such a beautiful post...although I'm so sorry you had to go through that for me to read this. By the time I got to the end, tears were streaming down my face. (you won't get a picture of that, ha ha) Our camera can capture so much, but not everything. And I imagine as the weeks and months go by you just may capture the emotion you could not . . . 4 years ago this Thanksgiving my family and I drove around while our turkey was cooking in the oven, having just moved here in August and only 5 weeks before Ike, so thankful for what we had...seeing the devastation that eventually took years to come back from. Seeing it on the news is so different than witnessing first hand in person....so thankful you were all safe and that things are going to get back to a normal for you!! XO Kim

Deanna said...

Carol, your re-living your story with us was filled with so much love and hope. Your neighbors that provided you with so much more than just food & gas, but their love and concern and willingness to help eventho they were in need as well. I have never lived through the loss of power (except briefly), lack of running water or gas, never had my home threatened by such horrific storms. So I can only imagine what you and thousands of others have gone thru and are still going thru daily. My heart goes out to you and all those suffering, and I thank God that you survived the storm and your home is intact. The Jersey Shore will rise again....!!!!

Carol said...

Thanks Patti - I'll forward those prayers to the shore and the island - but I'll keep some for myself first. Thank you.

Carol said...

I cannot belive what I'm reading - I cannot imagine losing your home twice! I guess surviving those fires must have forcuibly taught you what's important in life - but a horrible way to take in that lesson. God bless you for all of your strength!

Carol said...

See - that's what I'm talking about! Imagine someone way over in the UK worrying about little ole' me - what a wonderful (and small) world! Thanks you!

Carol said...

Kim - you are such a grateful spirit - I love that about you. That might become a tardition of gratefulness. Sounds like you had a tough transition to Tx altogether - but I am glad you love living there now. Thanks for your kind words.

Carol said...

So glad you have no story to tell, Deanna - stay well!! Thanks you for your kind thoughts!

Linda said...

You're so right about how the camera can't capture the feelings! I know that many are still facing extreme difficulty. It is encouraging to hear about so many people doing so much to help!
I am so happy to hear you are back in your house and things are settling down for you. I have to thank your phone camera and the little social thing called Instagram for letting me know how you have been doing this past 2 weeks! Sometimes social media is a good thing!
Very powerful and heartfelt post!

xo,
Linda

Anonymous said...

Carol, didn't know the extent of the tragedy in your life. A lot to deal with. Glade to see that you made it through ok. Love your post.
K

Claudia@DipityRoad said...

So wonderful to see it all in writing and your photos always knock me off my feet.

Of course you know that you had me blubbering from word one *just happy you are alive and well* and yes, we are not just words or photos on a page... we are sisters of the truest kind.

I was so happy to be able to share your safety with our group... yet worried till now. I know you will have a great story to keep on telling and especially to your grandkids some day.

I spoke with a cute little woman from Long Island shortly after the storm passed and she told me how she USED to live 3 blocks from the ocean...and NOW she is ocean front... all the other homes were washed away only leaving the cement stoops. Broke her heart and she has guilt. :( soooo sad.

Lovein you from UTAH

Hugs GF

Claudia

Focusing on Life said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

(sorry that was me - it went under the wrong I.D) So anyway - guess what Linda? Your coffee cubes that you had sent me were my sustenance those first few mornings. They allowed my to make coffee on the grill! Who would have thought when you sent them that THAT is how they would be used! They were much appreciated!

Focusing on Life said...

Hardly a tragedy for me - but certainly all around me. Thanks for your good thoughts.

- Carol

Focusing on Life said...

Most of the people I know at the shore are just getting to see what's left today. They are taking busloads in - each person allowed to take 2 SUITCASES for belongings from their homes - I can't even imagine.
So grateful for you all !

Carol

stephmull said...

Oh, Carol....so thankful you are safe and back in your home! Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your experience with us! We were all so concerned about you and were so glad to hear the periodic updates from Claudia. Love and hugs to you!

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