I looked up at the pale blue sky with a cool breeze hitting my face. The weather was perfect for a trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We brought a special visitor — our five-year-old grandson, Bentley.
The warmth of the sun balanced by the coolness of the breeze melted away the stressful drive to Williamsburg. With an accident somewhere between Exit 256 and Exit 242, traffic was at a standstill.
Thanks to Google Maps, we found an alternate route before hitting the standstill and shaved minutes off of our trip. Even the alternate route was slow-moving heavy traffic.
Once in the park, Kathy took Bentley to get height checked for rides. I went to the restroom to empty my coffee reserves.
Upon my return, they were still in line. Rather than squeeze past people lined up in the chainlink maze, I called and motioned that I would wait over by the height check booth. I looked up into the clear blue sky.
The peace and calm of the sky melted away the crowds. Any residual anxieties and stress from the drive left as well.
Despite the crowd and the noise assaulting my inner space, I had entered that stillness and was at peace. That was until ONE SINGLE thought invaded my tranquility, “Doesn’t the peacefulness of the blue sky remind you of the eye of a hurricane?”
Before I knew it my thoughts raced south-west toward South East Texas and the recovery efforts underway. I was thinking about the lives uprooted by the flooding and loss from Hurricane Harvey. My bliss sank into an ache the more I fixated on the devastation. Not that thinking about the suffering of others is wrong. Concern for the well-being of others is at the core of our nature. Honestly, at that immediate moment, I was in no position to help.
My thought turned east to Florida. Irma made landfall on southern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. The National Weather Service predicted that Imra would impact Georgia and South Carolina as well. Irma left her footprints on those states as well.
Living in Hampton Roads, Virginia for over twenty-five years, I have experienced hurricanes and Nor Easters. The worst was Isabel in 2003. It was a Category 1 Hurricane when it hit Virginia Beach. No previous experience with hurricanes, Isabel scared the living crap out of me. I did not know what to expect.
Because of a hurricane’s immense power, you feel helpless. Isabel pounded us for hours. It seemed like forever. Nervously, I would look out the windows to see how our trees were faring. My biggest concern was the pine about 15 feet from the house. This massive pine sits in the backyard on the northeast side of our house. Guess in which direction the strongest winds were blowing in?
We survived Isabel. Neighbor helping neighbor, the next day was a massive cleanup. All over the state downed trees downed electrical lines, broken branches took out the electricity to over 1.3 million people. People lost their roofs and siding. We were more fortunate. Our power is underground. Lights flickered but never lost power.
With Hurricane Matthew, a more recent storm, we didn’t experience the wind damage of Isabel. Mostly offshore, Matthew was more of a rainmaker. Matthew came on the heels of an already rainy season. The water table had standing water in many places. Matthew dropped enough rain to cause massive flooding throughout the Carolinas and Virginia.
The water from the lake behind my house reached almost to the patio. The highest that I have seen in the twenty-five plus years living in this house.
With Isabel and Matthew as a reminder, I felt the fear, the anxiety that you feel when you are helpless and at the mercy of one of these storms. My heart reached out to those who lives were devastated by a hurricane.
My initial impulse was to feel a little guilty for enjoying myself at Busch Gardens in Virginia while a thousand miles or so to the south, Irma was terrorizing others. The guilt passed quickly as I realized that there was nothing I could do about it. Irma is out of my power and control. My time to help would come later.
LIfe is filled with tragedy yet it also has its many moments of blessing. I will seize this moment of blessing and enjoy my day with my beloved wife and grandson.
I looked over at the slow-moving line. Kathy and Bentley were getting closer to the measuring booth. But my mind was in full gear.
Returning to my thoughts, I envisioned a map of Florida and thought, “what if one could stay in the eye of Irma as it traveled up the coast until it weakened into a benign storm?”
The eye is the most peaceful place in a hurricane. Not very practical though, right? Vivid imagination, I know.
Life is filled with adversity. We call our adversities storms. What if we could live in the eye, the place of peace when adversity strikes? When the storms overcome us?
Plan and prepare, but still be at peace.
If we are honest with ourselves, adversities are stressing and sometimes completely overwhelming. Usually, Our fears and anxieties only make planning and preparation more difficult. We don’t think clearly when we are anxious and fearful.
Is it possible to be at peace while the winds of adversity blow strong tearing everything around us apart?
I believe we can live in the eye of the storm, in a state of peace.
Only one thing hinders us. Ralph Waldon Emerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
Peace is a state of being. Not something we receive or work up. Peace is the tranquil pool at our center, the seat of the Divine. The only person, place, or thing that can hinder you from being at peace is YOU.