(I’m posting this later, but originally wrote this with pen and paper with the power out as we waited through a much diminished Hurricane Irma in Savannah.)
I live in Savannah, GA and we’re near the end of our part of Hurricane Irma’s terrible story. The power’s out, but otherwise no major damage, not nearly the flooding that was expected, no trees down in our neighborhood so far. This is a very different picture from what was forecast earlier in the week, and certainly very different from the Caribbean where Irma wreaked horrific damage. And different from the flooding of Harvey in Texas, which is I think what everyone in Savannah imagined.
Irma shifted west as our family planned to evacuate. Our good news was western Florida’s nightmare. With the power out, I haven’t heard much about how they fared, but I know a cousin and several friends are safe. I imagine there is far more devastation and our little power outage will seem a blip compared to what has happened there.
While the power was on, our family started an old-fashioned way to pass the time: a jigsaw puzzle. My mom and I used to do jigsaw puzzles when I was growing up. My husband and I did a jigsaw puzzle while we waited for the contractions to get close enough to go to the hospital before our son was born. More recently, I did a jigsaw puzzle in the little room outside ICU while we waited for my father to die.
Putting those small cardboard pieces together one at a time help me feel like there’s some small thing I have some control over.
This week I have had many puzzles to ponder. Where are there all these natural disasters in the world? I’m not generally a person who spends much time worrying over the why’s that are really in in God’s control. But with the one-after-another news cycle on floods, fires, and storms, it’s impossible not to wonder at least a little. As the storm track moved west, I puzzled over why we will be pretty well spared and so many others were not. My survivor’s guilt began long before the first drop of rain ever fell on my rooftop.
I will have easy puzzles to work on next: friends and neighbors have power, so we’ll have to decide which friends to grace with our presence when we get tired of roughing it at our house. Then there’s always the first world puzzle of what meal to make on the grill with defrosted ground beef, pizza rolls and no-longer-frozen peas. One more item and I have an episode of Chopped. Maybe the mayonnaise quickly going bad on the refrigerator door, or perhaps the warming celebratory hurricane staycation beer that I hoped we might use up.
Like I said, these are the easy puzzles. The one on our dining room table is 750 pieces of green and brown difficulty. The non-interlocking pieces add to the crazy.
And there are crazy difficult puzzles in my life that I’ll need to be working on. Soon Hurricane Irma will be behind me, but many will still be recovering. The natural disasters all over our world are always heartbreaking, but when they happen close to home, they are reminders that, in general, I live a pretty privileged life. I could choose whether or not I evacuated, whether I could miss work to leave early, whether I could afford to stay in a hotel rather than a shelter. I can tell my son not to worry about “things” because I know whatever is destroyed, there will be no shortage of “things” to take their place in the future. I can walk around after the storm unafraid of being mistaken for a looter, unlike so many in our neighborhood as tracked on my new membership in Nextdoor.com.
My biggest puzzle over the next few weeks will fortunately not have to be putting my home and my life back together after the storm, as we worried it might be. But I am going to have to work on putting the pieces of my work life back together in such a way that I am truly working on the things that matter to me: social justice and equity, racial unity and ecological advocacy, community prosperity and spiritual transformation. All the pieces are still just spread out over my metaphorical table, but I am committed to helping God put our broken up puzzle back together. I’ve been promised there’s a beautiful picture at the end.
What is happening in the world or in your life that you puzzle over? Have you been affected by a natural disaster? How has that experience impacted how you live your life now? What are some the “easy” puzzles in your life right now? Is this a good time to work on them? Are there some more difficult puzzles that you want or need to work on?