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Letter from Hurricane Ian

By Jennifer French

A few days ago I dreamt that I was Wonder Woman. Well, not quite. I had Wonder Woman’s boomerang-like headpiece and was using it to fight bad guys. I had help, but my helpers couldn’t differentiate the bad guys from the good guys. And then the headpiece broke…and I couldn’t do anything.

I had this dream two days after surviving one of SW Florida’s strongest, and now, deadliest storms to make landfall since 1935. Here in Punta Gorda, the eye of the hurricane—some 60 miles wide–passed right over us. We were battered, tattered and banged up. Mid way through the storm we walked out into the street amidst an eerie calm. But it was the “backend” of the storm that was grueling and relentless. 

My husband Gary and I decided to ride out the storm. We were super scared, huddled in the little hallway space of our home, the only space that didn’t have walls or windows directly to the outside. We built a kind of fort with zafus, zabutons, pillows, and blankets. I prayed to God for guidance. Our hearts dropped with the sound of each smashing tree. Our minds swirled with the fear of rising storm surges. And the winds at 135 mph just wouldn’t stop. What do we do next? Down the street, I was sure—absolutely sure—we were going to lose our precious building that holds our beloved yoga studio, The Yoga Sanctuary. Or even the roof above or very heads! The first tree, a great big oak, came down at 8am, just catching the corner of our house. Finally, sometime after midnight, the winds began to die down. Then morning. We are safe; we are some of the lucky ones. 

There are so many after stories: a neighbor, two houses from us whose husband lies paralyzed from the mid-thoracic down, a cancerous tumor pressing into his spine, she with a broken arm, both riding out the hurricane wearing life jackets in fear of death from rising storm surges. Two local kids, 19 & 20, siblings that lost their father last year to COVID and their mother just weeks ago to cancer, trying to navigate how to fix a house ravaged by a hurricane. Countless people that have lost everything, unsure where they will live and what will come next. People still without power, without water. Houses flooded. Streets wiped away. Bridges destroyed. City-wide landscapes changed forever. 

Today, a week after Hurricane Ian ripped apart so many lives, the challenges that continue to arise on bright sun filled days feels infinitely bigger. But so do the small things, the small kindnesses. A text checking in to see how it’s all going, helping a neighbor pick up fallen debris, running to an open gas station to fill a friend’s gas can, charging someone’s phone, passing along extra tarps, sharing food, sitting in community, a hug… All the things that are so small they are easily forgotten. Please, let it be those small things that last in our memory.

Alchemy + Aim