Friday, November 2, 2012

The Calm After

"...the calm serves as both herald and lamentation, 
from serenity to storm, from tempest to tranquility."

By Patrick J. Walsh

The hurricane has passed. Today, in these suburbs north of New York City, thick layers of clouds hover overhead; but the sporadic bursts of heavy rain are now gone, and the fierce winds that marked the worst behavior of the storm have now been replaced by an uneasy chill.

There are many streetlights not working today in the area where I live. Beyond the entrance road to the park, there is no need for streetlights.

Many homes and many businesses — from delicatessens to doctors’ offices, food stores to pharmacies — are without electricity. It is difficult for people to shop, or conduct business, or do many of the activities that they normally do.

In the park, there is calm — from the bony fingers of branches in the nearby woods to the heavy wooden tables in the picnic area, the content murmur of the stream to the skittering of squirrels through the downed leaves in the grass. The park is at ease, its accustomed dignity intact.

© Patrick J. Walsh
In the park, there is calm...
People are sitting in their dark homes and in their dark stores and offices, using the fading hours of daylight to try to figure out what to do — where to go, or whether or not to try to go anywhere — before the night comes again.

The surface of the pond in the park is smooth and silken, and where there are leaves left on branches, the swatch of color hangs steady, unmoved by the sudden arrival of the cold, still air.

The subways of New York City are clogged with water; the shoreline of coastal New Jersey has been altered, at least temporarily, by the force of the storm. Most of the trains that transport people to and from the city and its surrounding suburbs have not yet returned to normal operation.

In the suburbs, downed trees block roads, downed electric wires threaten pedestrians, and every light breeze brings a shudder, as people try to move past the inconvenience and stress and hazard of the hurricane that is now gone from this area.

In the park, there are trees that are split and trees that are twisted and trees that are missing branches; but these are all from other storms. The park has weathered other storms, and has largely avoided the worst effects of this one.

Set aside as an intersecting point between the natural world that was here long before and the suburbs that are even now swaddled in the ribbons of their truculent infancy, the park absorbs the thrashings of the weather with the same serenity it employs to cope with the daily exploits of its human visitors.

It is cool in the park today. I feel cold as I walk. But it is a freshening feeling, sober in the reflection it inspires about the devastation of which nature is capable in its darker moods, and yet hopeful for what it implies about the resiliency of the calm that serves as both herald and lamentation, from serenity to storm, from tempest to tranquility.

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