“Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world!”
Grasshoppers that we are, the only flashlight we owned was one our daughter took to Girl Scout camp back in the day. It still had her name on a dried-up strip of masking tape. So we were amused by the presents Paul’s mother gave him for his birthday a few weeks ago: a utility torch and a lantern that beams the whitest, brightest light this side of the Pearly Gates. I was going to stash them down the basement, where they’d soon get buried and forgotten, but…something told me No.
Monday night, I was looking out the window, watching the wind thrash the trees, when we heard a small explosion. I thought of the old flashbulbs, the ones that would pop and then crinkle and melt, only way louder. Poof. The street went dark before my eyes. Zoop. On went the magic lantern.
By the third day, when I went down the hill to the coffee place, half my neighborhood was in there. Everyone was rueful and cheery and a little grubby, and the hot coffee was dee-vine (My sister-in-law on Long Island, still without power, realized the depths of her caffeine addiction when she found herself making a paste of instant coffee and water, adding cold milk and slugging it down. This wasn’t as bad as my friend who ate cold chicken soup—Susan, eeyoo!) The rain came down in such unrelenting sheets that the sky never changed all day, the light the same mornings and afternoons. All my shoes got soaked, and in the cold house refused to dry. One day I went to school with Paul, sat in the corner of his warm, bright classroom and wrote a book review (Lydia Millet’s “Magnificence”—a swooner of a novel). I developed a habit I might stick with—writing at the library. So quiet (before school lets out). So focusing (don’t know how to log onto the internet). Out of bad comes good, as my daughter’s second grade teacher taught them.
But the trees! The faithful old trees, the oaks and maples and tulip poplars, who faithfully watch over these streets and yards. The wind yanked them out like rotten teeth. I saw one that looked as if it had heaved a great, sad sigh and slowly collapsed against its house—it leaned there quietly, gently, having dented not so much as a gutter.
This morning the lantern is finally off. The furnace is cranked high. It’s still, unbelievably, raining, but last night, just before sunset, I saw a few rays of sunlight and my heart lifted like Noah’s when that dove arrowed back to the arc with a twig in her mouth. Dry land is out there somewhere. My heart goes out to New York and New Jersey, where there’s still so much ahead.