In 2006, as I was crossing the street, walking back to work from my break, a strong wind nearly knocked me off my feet. Since then, winds have been my enemy. I have gained, in the interim, about twenty pounds, and then lost about twelve or fifteen of those pounds. Even so, with Hurricane Sandy, I not only wanted to have an Adventure with this new event, but I had something to prove. Thus it was, I decided to go out to my local state park and get a picture of the river in the hurricane. Because, I told my mother, the people had to know.
Shielded with three jackets and my trusty spotted rainboots, with an umbrella and a camera as my weapons, I went to face my enemy.
Although my neighborhood is right next to the state park, I did a strange thing and drove there. I didn’t want to walk an entire mile and a half to the river in the rain, after all. I figured that the gate to the park would be closed. In fact, I thought it would be irresponsible to do otherwise. With that in mind, I parked next to the baseball field outside the park, and then spent a few minutes wandering around the baseball field.
The rain was intense, sure, but it was nothing compared to the wind. I had to hold the umbrella facing the wind exactly, so it wouldn’t pop out of its frame. I was certain that at any moment the fabric would break and I would be defenseless in my battle against Sandy.
“It would be irresponsible of them to have the gate open.”
This tributary normally has a foot-deep bank.
The golf course is under deep water. As I understand it, water starts accumulating on top of the ground when the ground itself is so filled with water, like a sponge, that it can’t take in anymore. At this point Sandy had only been around for a few hours. These pictures were taken at 3:30.
The mile-long walk from the entrance to the river had me gripping the umbrella like a shield, staving off the water. The wind whipped my outer jacket around. Twice the wind struck me so hard I stumbled. But this was why I was doing this. I had to show the hurricane that I could stand it.
If the golf course at the entrance was a sponge, the earth by the river itself was simple a sink full of dirty dishes. I sank into the ground. The ground isn’t completely flat, and only the very tops of the mounds was there no standing water. What was worse, the closer you got to the water, the worse the wind became. Suddenly the wind wasn’t blowing frequently from the side — it was constant and coming at me from the front. Sandy did not want me there.
It was all I could do to hold my umbrella in front of me. The wind bowed the umbrella until the frame was straight. The wind whipped my hair around, always in my face, soaking it. My pants were soaked. I could only inch forward. My hands were so cold from the wind that I lost feeling in my fingers, my fingers like numb stones sliding desperately against the glass of my phone camera. I would take a picture, but I wouldn’t even check the camera before pocketing the phone again. I had no time. I could hardly stand still, for fear of being knocked into the ground. I imagined that I felt much like how a biplane pilot felt in the early days of aviation. Cold and wet and the wind whipping in my ears so loud I could barely think. It took me twenty minutes to cross that field.
At some point in a journey, there comes a time when you have to consider yourself and your motives. Why are you here? It doesn’t matter what your motive was that lead you to start this journey. Why are you here now? Why have you decided to stay? Why should you continue?
It is one of those moments where you look into the abyss, and the abyss looks back. When you look up at your bedroom ceiling at night, what do you see, flickering in the vague retinal echoes of your sight? When there is no one but you and your enemy, whispering at your ear and pounding at your shield, what can you say? What can you do?
I don’t know why I continued forward. I thought that perhaps it was because I had told myself I would do this and I didn’t want to break that promise. Or maybe I hate wind just that much. Maybe it’s some other reason, buried deep within my soul, that made me take another step forward to the river. And then another one. I could no longer feel my knees, and my pants were so soaked they were heavier than my feet, but I kept walking anyway.
This was the picture I got.
As I turned around, away from the river the wind turned stronger, whipping my long jacket between my legs, pushing me forward. Go on, Sandy seemed to be saying. Get out of here. Leave.