the key west canopy

 

 

The lucky little isle of Key West dodged a direct hit from Hurricane Irma by about 20 – 30 miles. Structural damage was minimal; of no consolation to my neighbor who owns 2 Cents Restaurant, its kitchen destroyed by a falling tree. It is definitely the tree damage in Key West that is so startling, the bareness and brightness hurtful to both mind and eye. I lost my largest shade tree, a frangipani, a heartbreaker. There is chatter around town about the City’s Tree Commission and their strict regulations on tree removal and tree trimming. Some state that much damage is a result of the city’s ordinance which does not allow residents to thin the canopies of large, deciduous trees. I have much to learn before weighing in on this divide, but it is the deciduous trees, the trees that provide the city with glorious shade, that could not withstand Irma’s pounding. Palms can bend, leafy limbs offer resistance and break. I do feel, however, that the city is doing a great job removing the debris. Removal goes on around the clock; put it on the street, they will pick it up. But many, like those who live on Catholic Lane which has yet to be cleared, feel otherwise. A very small sampling below, these piles are everywhere.

 

 

Catholic Lane, behind my house. The debris here runs the entire length of the street. There are homes behind this pile.

 

William Street home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shel Silverstein’s home, William Street

 

 

 

 

Massive rubber tree, Fleming Street

 

 

Fleming Street

 

 

 

 

 

a little follow-up on the french lady

 

 

Today is Sabine’s birthday, and it was a year ago today that I moved into my Key West home. I called to wish her a happy birthday and of course, she remembered my anniversary, and of course, we commented on this connection. She’s currently at her Deale, MD home on the Chesapeake Bay, a lovely life, oui?, the point being, MD (and the close proximity to my previous home) is yet another tie to this lovely lady. She told me that Irma was her third hurricane in her 23 years in Key West, Wilma (2005) being the worst. In Wilma, there was 4 feet of water on her first floor, her car was flooded and ruined. She learned recently, via her neighbors, that Irma beat the North side of her house severely, but the beach side is in good shape. She has no electricity, but it’s a matter of getting an electrician, not a city issue. She has little hope of getting anyone out there for another 2 weeks but she has all the hope in the world that our island will be lovely again come spring.

I won’t tell you her age—that would be rude, oui?

 

 

the french lady

 

 

I work for a french woman who owns a long standing, high-end Key West boutique. Sabine is effortlessly chic, charming, successful, a diva for certain–but a diva with arms so wide she could take half of Key West to her bosom. I have watched her outfit the Key West wealthy, the tourist, the passerby who is drawn into her shop by the tantalizing goods perfectly displayed in the wide window. Her accent is alluring, cementing her charm while allowing her unrecognized sarcasm should the occasional customer question her taste or her wares. I am devoted to Sabine. She has taken me under her wing and schooled me in fashion and retailing, and more importantly, she has schooled me in the challenges a single woman (well past her prime) must face in hurricane vulnerable Key West. She was on vacation in France when Irma met the Keys and her beach house on the Atlantic took a terrible hit, but like the grand dame herself, her home stood strong and lives to meet the challenges of another season.

Sabine called me after the storm to check on both my safety and anxiety. We talked for some time and not particularly about the hurricane devastation, but rather about the uncertainty before the storm, the constant fretting, the do-I-stay or do-I-go decision that only those who face impending danger can understand. Second to family and pets, the love of one’s home is paramount. Home is security, a sanctuary, a respite from a complicated and uncertain world, and Sabine understands that if you are alone, it is all that is dear to you. “How do you walk away from that?” she asked. “How do you leave your baby behind and hope for the best?”

“It is the price we pay to live in paradise,” she told me. “It is island life. It is the housing compromise we have made, our choice, our hardship. It will be a difficult year, but it is what makes us resilient, strong, different. And different is good, my dear, for who wants to be like everybody else,” she asked with her french-filled, fancy laugh.

Thank you, Sabine. Thank you for your mentoring, your hand holding, your grace, and your unflappable island sensibilities. I do live in paradise, made so not only by lofty palms but by compassionate people, a one human family. I live in a paradise currently in the processes of resurrection and renewal. Key West strong.

 

 

irma la douche bag

 

 

Some initial and random thoughts on hurricane Irma’s side effects, in no particular order.

 

🎏    Facebook, which I once despised, has become invaluable. The information and videos that I’ve had access to has provided comfort and clarity for not only myself and other residents effected by the storm, but also for loved ones inquiring about loved ones. To the brave souls who posted this information, my unending appreciation and thanks.

🎏    And while on the subject of Facebook, I read a post asking that the hurricane devastation not become a political debate, that we put down our weapons and come together to tackle a humanitarian crisis. On one hand, I could not agree more. But in my other hand sits an itch to lash out at those who dismiss all that science has shown us. Arrogance and ignorance will not save our earth—and if your position is that earth does not need saving, well, here’s hoping your roof holds fast and your rhetoric doesn’t slap you in the face at 185 mph.

🎏    And while on the subject of Facebook and politics, boy, you sure do find out who your friends are in time of crisis. I am so saddened that those who “unfriended” me because of political differences, could not rise above these differences and inquire as to my safety. While I certainly enjoy the company of like minds, I’ve never felt the need to do away with someone because they think differently than I do. Way too many “friends” are nothing more than numbers at the top of the page.

🎏    I am not a religious person. As much as I would like to believe in God, I don’t. While I thank all of those who said they will keep me in their prayers, I often wonder how many of them actually pray and how many have just become accustomed to saying such things. I don’t pray, at least not in the typical prayer fashion as taught by Christianity, but I will chant certain phrases that calm me, I will repeat thoughts of hope aloud and in my mind, and I always keep thoughts of those in pain at the forefront. I have many faithful friends and I while I admire their devotion and understand the benefits of being a believer, I do not think for one minute that there is a force sitting in the cosmos deciding which prayers will be answered and which ones will be dashed. And the notion of “God’s plan” is absurd to me. We live and we die, that’s the only plan out there. What goes on in between birth and death is up to us and and circumstances beyond our control.

🎏     Respect nature, respect people, respect life. Be generous with your time, your money, your love, and come to know the amazing power of gratitude. Forgive yourself for mistakes made as you would forgive others. Cherish only humans and animal life, and let those you hold in your heart know they are loved always.

 

 

freak out day

 

 

So, not a good start to my day. First was the critique from my mentor/editor on my latest writing project—which in itself is cause for chain smoking. Second, I mistakenly looked at the hurricane forecast and Irma, as of today, is headed straight for the Keys. Now I understand that this storm is currently far from Florida and can change paths at any given time—but that doesn’t change the information that’s available today—hence, my freaking out.

We all have different coping mechanisms. The healthiest of us would probably run or bike or burn up the angst in some productive way. The less healthy may have a routine that is similar to mine which involves smoking pot, cigarettes, walking in circles, opening the refrigerator 500 times, reversing circles, etc., etc. I can’t go back to the critique and tackle all the things I need to tackle in my work—good Lord, my brain would probably burst. I’ve considered cleaning my gutters and looking at the hurricane shutters (as if I would have any idea as to how to install them) but that requires a focused energy and focusing on anything is completely out of reach right now. I’m well provisioned and have already put in 2 requests for a ride out of town if needed so I guess there’s nothing more I can do at this time. Except worry. And write about it.

Every day is precious. Look at the Harvey victims. One day you’re standing in line at Burger King and the next day you’re swimming for your life. Even the freak out days are precious. They make you aware of a rapidly beating and vibrant heart. They challenge and scare and exhaust you, but they rattle your brains and bones and shape you in a way that is different than the day before. That said, I know there are plenty of positive remarks in my review that will spur me on when I’m ready to work, and I don’t know that I’ll clean the gutters today, but I’m feeling better.

 

image: infoworld.com