This past week has had a strange melancholy to it. The previous week, Robert was in Stanford Hospital receiving an experimental treatment, which so far has proved to be inconclusive at best, but was most likely unsuccessful. At the same time, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, and several friends have been without power or electricity for days.
It's so odd to be here, in beautiful, sunny California, while 3000 miles away people are cold and hungry, in places like lower Manhattan, the richest city in the world. Complicated by my personal struggle as a caretaker/my partner's health issues, I end up feeling isolated and guilty. My troubles are not shared, and do not have a an end in sight, yet at the same time, are not immediately pressing like those of people in Hoboken or Staten Island.
Last year, my in-laws lost all their belongings when their house was flooded by Hurricane Irene. As fundraiser for them, I ended up selling the print above, and I've found myself thinking about it a great deal this week. Fortunately, this year, for them, the creek didn't rise enough to flood their home, although they have been without heat or electricity for a week.
I find myself turning to poetry for comfort, guidance, insight. Poets like Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke. And then, today, the poem below caught my eye. I have a copy of it on my fridge. It's been there for years, ever since my senior year of college when my teacher, Shelley Thorstensen, gave it to me. I just noticed it again after being blind to it. Shelley didn't know the author, or even the title, and I can't see to find it on Google. It may actually not be a poem, just a list of lifeboat survival techniques. But it can be an overall metaphor for getting through a tough time.
Keep riding the waves.
When there's a lull, take a rest.
If you have crackers, eat them sparingly.
Icebergs are dangerous, but are a source of pure water.
Eventually, you might see a ship. Fire off the flare gun, toward it.
Wave at all aircraft, but do not yell; they cannot hear.
If raft overturns, hold ropes on all sides.
All parties must be on the same side, to turn raft upright.
Be sure the automatic harpoon is pointed towards the water.
Rebroadcast your current location at regular intervals.
If you see birds, row toward where they fly.
Beware of using sharp objects inside raft.
Do not eat any species of blowfish.
When you hear the sound of breaking waves, be ready to make landfall.
The Bermuda Triangle is populated with giant squid, a source of protein, which will feed two people for many days.
Rest as often as possible, but keep an eye on the horizon.
If anyone knows who or where this is from, please let me know in the comments.
In related news, if you feel like helping and are far away like me, text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to go specifically to Hurricane Sandy relief.