For the last couple of days on the Connecticut shoreline, it’s all Irene all the time. This morning, when I drove to town to hunt and gather the morning’s bagels, I noticed that the flags at a local marina were hanging limp. There is a certain something in the air — if I were a barometer, I’d doubtless know what is was — but as of now the air is still as Lazarus before the miracle.
The calm is deceptive, of course. Like everyone else in our seaside neighborhood, we’ve become amateur meteorologists. I know precisely where Hurricane Irene is right now, what its sustained winds are, and (more or less) when it will start churning up the the air and seas around us. What I don’t know is how much, if any, of its violence will have abated by then or whether its course will be catastrophic or merely damaging. I think of Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages,” one of his Four Quartets:
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god–sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities–ever, however, implacable,
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget.
Eliot was talking about rivers, I know, but his point applies equally to Long Island Sound. “The river is within us, the sea is all about us” — that circumabience is exactly what we’re worried about.
The squirrels, I note, are in pretty much in the same fix. They are zipping up and down trees with wild abandon, acting, like all of us in the neighborhood, with more energy than aim. We’ve taped big Xs on our east facing windows — an exercise that, after we finished, I was told was useless — and we’ve rolled up the carpets on the first floor, put plastic around the legs on unmovable items like the piano and harpsichord, and trucked a bunch of things up to the second story. Exactly what all these preparations will accomplish is unclear. There are plenty of scenarios that will render them laughably inadequate.
There seems to be a robust appetite for bulletins about this latest meteorological insult, so I am planning to report back here from time to time about the storm. In the meantime, I note the irony that “Irene” comes from the Greek word for “peace.” This Irene, alas, is not irenic.