Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Knocked Down A Notch Or Two

The Who--"Faith In Something Bigger" (mp3)

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

I guess we all need the reminder, every so often, that there are forces greater than us, that our puny plans and accomplishments don't always stand up.

August. Chattanooga. One-quarter inch of rain for the entire month. Half the time we're rejoicing, those of us who cut grass. "Weeeeeee! We may never have to cut grass again." The other half of the time, we forget to water a plant and it shrivels up under the constant 90+ degree sun. The shrubs and bushes that ornament our homes begin to turn brown, regardless of time spent holding hoses over them.

I'll admit it. I've been feeling pretty smug. The house I have lived in for the past 18 years has never looked better, especially inside, and I have been relishing the additional work that it will take to finish it--painting, moving, sorting, giving away. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes one feel more smug than life with a plan, when that plan is working.

A big part of that plan has been a usable basement. The main room, cleared out, new ceiling, floor painted, can easily function as a "guest room" now, at least for more rugged guests, since it is, after all, still a basement. But it has a king bed, its own bathroom, and now, its kitchen with stocked refrigerator, grill top stove, sink and table and chairs and.....

Last night, I was at Billy's house, a place I hadn't been before. It's a nice place, a big place, and he was showing me around, the revelation of each room making it even more comfortable and spacious. And I could tell he was proud of it. "In the three years it was on the market," he said, "only one other family looked at it. Because it sits down here at the bottom end of this long driveway, people who drive by don't realize how much house is here." I made a joke about it flooding. "We've taken care of that," he said. "We got it fixed."

September 5th. Chattanooga. One day. More than 8 inches of rain, the "leftovers" from Tropical Storm Lee, pummel the city, causing flooding, school closings, and, ultimately, with high winds, downed trees and power outages.

This morning, my "new" basement is wet, the result of water that started coming in about 5 hours after the rains picked up yesterday, rivulets of water than ran under beds, into a bathroom, under my new sink, stove, dishwasher, and into a carpet that I'd moved downstairs. I came home yesterday and said to my wife, "I feel like we're back in the same house we've always been in."

Billy's situation is far worse: seven trees downed on his property, effectively shutting him in taking away his power and preventing him from driving anywhere. I haven't talked with him since this morning. I don't know what he's gone through today. But he sent this last night, after our Fantasy Football draft at his house, after the first tree hit:

"...a tree fell across our driveway, right between my Honda and our front porch.

Had it fallen several minutes earlier, Hank and Ryan and Joel and Randy would have been leaving the house.
Had it fallen an hour or so earlier, it would have landed directly on both Alverson's and Chakwin's car.
It was inches away from crashing into our porch.
It was inches away from landing on my Honda."

I guess we all need the reminder, every so often, that there are forces greater than us, that our puny plans and accomplishments don't always stand up. It isn't a reminder that we want, but I guess that even those of us who are not kings with grand designs and huge monuments to ourselves need to be knocked down a notch or two, shown once again in some unexpected way that our self-designed life with a plan is only a tipped tree, a saturated lawn, a fallen power line away from interruption and even, God forbid, drastic change. I need the reminder that while I'm lamenting a wet rug or the sudden growing of the grass, while Billy struggles with out power, exhausted from a day of sawing logs, a colleague of ours has lost a family member to a fallen tree.

It does feel, though, like those reminders are coming all to often. Those of us who went through the tornadoes here last April, regardless of how much they affected us personally, saw too much not to have those images and feelings come back today. Yeah, I was getting smug. Now, I'm just kind of low. Maybe that was part of the lesson.

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