Saturday, 15 February 2014

in the shelter

We've been plagued by storms for the past week - storms with hurricane force winds, torrential rain, snow flurries, flood waters surging, huge old trees ripped out of stone ditches by their roots and power lines down all around Ireland.

Storm waters rising in Irish coastal towns - photo from The Irish Mirror

We were lucky - out of power for just 24 hours. We did run out of water, but since there was no real damage to our house or garden, that brief interlude of howling winds and huddling around the fire by candlelight was good for us. No half hour of television before the kids went to bed - just telling stories before heading upstairs to unusually cold beds.

The next morning the kids' schools were closed so we all trekked out to a nearby town to wander, eat something hot and recharge our cell phones in a cafe.

We also huddled in the library, just above the town's water wheel. They had a great kids' section with wide curving shelves, rainbow-rugs and a wee wooden table and chairs. My kids had a blast in there and I did too, reading aloud while my 18-month-old wandered around pulling random books off the shelves - yes, we put them back again!

We spent a good hour in there while the storm raged outside. It was shelter, true shelter - hushed and quiet, warm and dry, with friendly faces at the counter even when our teething little one got cranky and howled the place down.

It was such a relief to get home that day and find power and water. We loaded the dishwasher, ran the washing machine, flushed the loo (yippee!) and made spaghetti and meatballs. But a small part of me missed the brief peace of those 24 hours.

As the last breath of the storms played out today I took a quick run into town and bumped into a few people I knew. Their power was still out. Their freezers were full of rotting food. But it was okay, they said, because "we had to talk to each other!"

Fallen giants everywhere - photo from The Irish Journal

Seeing the news headlines tonight - more fallen trees obstructing roads, farm tanks bubbling with three days' worth of sour milk, people being evacuated from their homes - I couldn't get past that feeling of shelter. And I couldn't get a line from this song out of my head, "In the shelter of each other, we will live ... we will live!"

You know that old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child"? Turns out it's really really true - we do need each other. Especially in times like this, when those who've suffered most need the help of those who escaped the worst of the storm.

This week it was our turn. Next week it might be yours.

Seems to me that the same thing happens with emotional storms. Life traumas are often unexpected, uncontrollable, choosing their victims at random. Some of us need a place to sit for a while that's hushed, quiet, warm and dry. Filled with friendly faces, with people who can say, "Don't worry, it's gonna be okay" - because, from their vantage point, it already IS okay.

As the storms abate that's the lesson I'm taking from this week ... let's be that shelter for each other!