“Lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my!” states the famous quote from The Wizard of Oz. Recently, I rewritten it, “Covid, snow, ice, rain, flooding. Oh my!” While my rhythm and words don’t quite line up with the original, it certainly fits the 12 month period from March 2020 to March 2021. Of course, other words like loss, death, pandemic, quarantine, masks, virtual meetings, virtual learning/teaching, work from home, job loss, business closures and so forth, could likewise be added to this list.
However, there are other words too. Words such as faith, opportunity, growth, stretch, change, appreciation, home, family, friends, compassion, community, kindness . . . . No, I am not trying to make light of the seriousness of everything our local and global community collectively have experienced, not in the least. Instead, I am trying to discern the lesson(s) that Divine Providence has placed within my own life path, and perhaps, yours too, Dear Reader.
“There is always a good lesson in whatever happens to us, even in the midst of our losses . . . Every individual should think, ‘I am the only student. Everyone and everything are my professors.’”–Sri Swami Satchidananda
Personally speaking, like so many within our local Tri-state community, my family and I have been directly impacted by, not only all of the ramifications of the pandemic, but more recently, the power outages, water outages, and flooding. As the saying goes, “When it rains, it pours,” and this adage most certainly fits mid-February through early March. Beginning with steady rains, followed by snows, followed by ice, and wrapping up with more rain, the resulting effects of each one was felt by thousands within our three state region.
I have listened and overheard many stories from co-workers, friends, and acquaintances describing life without power for up to 14 days during the height of our coldest weather. Several more were without water for part or all of that same time period. Meanwhile, I have encountered, or read accounts, of those working within our local communities–braving the frigid temperature, dangerous conditions, icy roads–working extraordinarily long hours to restore power, wifi, communication, water lines and so forth. Their past and present acts of labor cannot be underestimated or underappreciated.
“He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’”–Job 37:6
Just as power, communications, water lines, and roads began reopening–as well as the beginnings of the vaccination process–thoughts of life settling down with slightly warming temperatures seemed like an imminent reality. Then came rain, a steady pitter patter of several days of rain during those final few days of February, in an already water-logged Tri-State area, giving way for March to come in like a lion.
“The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.”–Eeyore
Throughout the weekend, John, my husband, and I were keeping a close eye on Symmes Creek, a 76.4 mile long tributary of the Ohio River, which runs alongside OH 243, in a small section of Lawrence County. By the end of the last weekend in February, The Symmes, as it is often called, was rebelling against its banks. Additionally, the backwaters of the Ohio River, along OH 7, were spilling into the lowlands along the river.
The National Weather Service issued, changed, and updated flood warnings all along the Ohio River and its tributaries. However, the last time this type of widespread flooding occurred, our daughter, Maddie, was five years old–she is now 21. Surely, this wouldn’t happen again, right? We had had close calls in recent years, but we had not been flooded in, or flooded out, for that matter, since that singular year of Maddie’s life.
For the record, our family home is not in harm’s way with regards to flooding; however, the stretch of road on which we must travel to and from work and home, can potentially flood. However, it takes unusual, long-term circumstances of wet and rainy conditions in order for this to occur. Therefore, while we kept our eye on the waters, we really didn’t think it would happen. Still, there was that little niggle . . .
Monday evening, driving home from a local gym after work, I couldn’t help but notice that all along OH 7, water was up to both sides of this state route. Driving alongside OH 243, Symmes Creek was beginning to slip closer to the edge of the white line. This. Was. Not. Good.
“Steph, I think we’d better pack a bag in case we can’t get home,” John resolutely stated Tuesday morning.
Really? Really? As if going without power and water for nearly a week wasn’t enough. As if a pandemic wasn’t enough. As if . . .well, the tunes from WHINE radio station were spinning through my mind like a commercial-free power hour. Packing my bag was an act of resentment and anger–spoiled adult that I am. However, driving to work, as John and I tried to find a safe route out–the waters were swiftly advancing–my attitude quickly tempered as it became clear, there was only one route open, and it would be a close call.
“After the rain, the sun will reappear.”–Walt Disney
Without belaboring the point, John and I spent two days unable to return home while still working. It was equal parts of stress and adventure. Local hotels were still overflowing with National Guard and laborers who continued to work in surrounding areas that remained without power, water, reliable forms of communication, fallen trees and limbs, as well as blocked roads from the February ice storms. Thus, we were unable to stay in the same hotel.
Meanwhile, Maddie, who was flooded in, sent us daily reports of the rising, and eventually, falling waters. Thursday evening, when we were finally able to make it home, I was, well, overflowing with joy. Our home, be it full of flaws, in need of multiple repairs with a yard full of downed trees and limbs, was still our home. It was, and is, a sanctuary of personal comfort and calm. Cooking my own food, sleeping in my own bed, hugging my daughter and listening to her stranded adventures, petting our cats, wearing my favorite stretch pants (You know you have a pair too!), and the sun shining brilliantly through our dirty windows–home never looked so good.
And maybe, that is part of the lesson–appreciation for one another and for what we have–be it ever so modest–not to mention the realization that we are not in control. We can grasp, plan, and strive for future plans, such as vacations, bigger home, better job, more money, and so forth. However, none of these “things” bring us inner peace, nor do they offer us any form of control. Certainly, having the ability to pay the bills and meet your basic needs does bring about a certain peace of mind; but happiness and inner peace start with appreciating what you have in the here and now.
To be happy, we don’t need much. Family, friends, a safe place to live, meaningful work and/or life purpose, with faith acting as the glue that holds it all together, is, at the end of the day, more important than any title, job status, fancy address, or extravagant vacation. All the names and titles we use to define ourselves, all the carefully crafted plans and routines, all of our meticulously curated possessions and dwellings–all of these can be gone in a moment’s notice. Therefore, it is vital to have faith in the Divine Force greater than all that has happened or can happen to us. I am walking away from the past 12 months with a greater understanding of what TRULY matters, a deepening faith in the Divine, and appreciation–while it is cliche– that it genuinely is the simple things in life that matter most.
“Do not fear, the rain is only here to help you grow.”–Jennae Cecelia