Remembering Katrina

Ten years ago today, we fielded phone calls and emails from children and their spouses in three states urging us to go to our daughter’s home in Texas out of the path of the oncoming hurricane. In desperation, they finally put the oldest grandson on the phone to urge his grandfather to head out of the path of the storm. Al was not to be moved. (Did he think he could hold the roof on while better than 100 mph winds blew across?)
    We spent the 29th hunkered down without electricity. The youngest son pleaded a sprained ankle or some such to stay home and make periodic phone calls. Our phone was the only thing that never went out. He reported to his siblings via email all day and back to us with instructions from the daughter to remain in the inside hall because “curiosity killed the cat.”
    We were fortunate that Al had no need to do the roof bit. We were the only people on our street that didn’t sport a blue tarp somewhere on top of their house the next week. Compared to others, our damage was small. But my grief was real, both for my own loss and for the greater devastation I saw around me. I coped, as usual, by writing. This piece was published in the “Getting Back to Normal” issue of Thema literary magazine (Autumn 2008).


Four years ago –
Mississippi woods out back
clinched the sale
of a home to grow old in.

The woods turned me
into a child again –
ambling down Papaw’s lane;
watching squirrels play tag through the treetops;
seeing cardinals and Eastern bluebirds
swoop from tree to tree;
listening to woodpeckers rat-a-tatting;
surrounded by majestic oaks, swaying pines, “hicker-nut” trees,
beautyberry bushes.

The morning after Katrina’s
opaque white rain and roaring wind,
in my woods,
pines stand popped off like
little boys’ pencil fights,
roots and trunks of stately oaks
fallen crosswise
like too many grandchildren
sleeping in the same bed.

Pieces of my heart shatter into

grief with searchers
for family and friends;

mourning for lost
jobs and homes;

anger at those who
loot, shoot, and gouge;

relief that Katrina is gone and
we are safe;

gratitude for
our intact home;

and one sizeable shard of
lament for woods
that will not renew in my lifetime.

We had our pictures in the paper that fall, not for our loss, but for having a woodcutter salvage the neighborhood hardwood trees for our fireplace – two winters’ worth.
     Ten years later, the back woods has returned with scrub brush and fast-growing trees. It doesn’t look bad at all, but it will be a while before the oaks and sweet gums rise to their height.
     And if another major hurricane bears down upon us, and Al refuses to budge – I’ll pray for his safety as I head to Texas.