Monday, November 5, 2012

Home

I've been tempted to write this post, or some version of it, for a while now. I've come close a few times. But I've put it off, because...I don't know why. Maybe because it might sound stupid, or because I'd later want to take it back, or just because I had so many other, easier, Connecticut-related topics to write about.

But thanks to a swirling force of destruction known as Storm Sandy (surely the lamest moniker for any havoc-wreaking tempest ever) I'm going to write it now. 

I'm not going to tell a whole long storm story, because those all begin to sound the same after a while. There was wind that screamed like some deranged creature, but you knew that. There was water, and more water, but luckily that didn't reach me. There was loss of property and power, there was - and will be - inconvenience and insurance companies and (hopefully) FEMA money and wintery cold bedrooms and water like ice. But that is not what matters.

This is what matters. I've never felt like I was really from any place. If I had to name a one, I'd say New York, because the city of my birth is where my internal compass points, where I turn for information, no matter where in the world I am. I love many places, but somehow New York always seemed like the only real place.

But not last week. Last week, as I sat huddled in blankets fiddling with a radio dial illuminated by candles and flashlights, I didn't want to hear news from New York. I really didn't want to hear news from New Jersey. I didn't want to hear news from the rest of the country, or the world. I cared about those places and those people, but I didn't want to know all about them yet. First I wanted to know what had happened, and was happening, and would happen, here. In my home. 

Everyone spoke of Irene, but it was Gloria, in 1985, that this storm reminded me of. I realized that though I've spent a lot of time away from here, and often the time I have spent here has not been by choice, there's no denying that Connecticut and I go back a long time. Almost long enough to count even in New England years. And what I most  identified with, listening to those news reports from other places, was this familiar battered coastline. 

There's a Connecticut that surfaces over time, one that's far from the meaningless, featureless, surface-skimming place I used to think this state was. It turns out there is something deep and lasting about salt marches, salt water and cold wind in a grey sky, stripped trees in the dead of winter and the harshness of the snow. There is something haunting in the blood of centuries-old battles long plowed deep below the rocky soil. There is something magnificent in the granite that was quarried here to silently support buildings and monuments elsewhere, without being noticed or thanked. And in the people who first washed up to these unforgiving shores and decided to stay. And in all those who came after, making this most improbable place their own, and all those who were here before.

Once you start to notice them, Connecticut's subtleties creep in to your consciousness and pile up, and eventually they overwhelm you. The landscape of pale blanched colors, of blues and browns and greens, but over-washed, like an old shirt just before it frays. A highway seen at sunrise through dusty windshield glare and layers of industrial detritus. A boardwalk patrolled by shrieking seabirds. This land, this water, this sky, is saturated with memories that aren't even mine, but they have become mine.

There was a lot of talk about resilience during and just after the storm, and though all 50 states believe themselves to be populated by tough survivors, I realized I now prefer the Connecticut variety. We're tough quietly, in the shadows of louder, better-known, better-heard neighbors. We don't need to be mentioned on the national news, though I do get irrationally irked when we're not, as I noted the last time this happened. We are the forgotten third of the Tri-State. But we are still here. We sustain.
My last post took its title from a song about a storm. This one comes from another song that I've loved it since I first heard it on the radio after Hurricane Katrina. It's obviously not meant to be about Connecticut in any way, but this week - I think - it works.
Straight from the water
Straight from the water children
You don't know nothin' about this!

Take me home, home, home, home     
-Marc Broussard

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