Rain drips off the ridge of the bay window outside my home office. Leaves tremble and branches sway. One long, thin lilac branch waves back and forth like a pointing finger. The sky is the color of soaked cotton balls. I can hear no birds, only the patter and plop of rain drops falling off the tree limbs overhanging our roof, and the wind’s sigh.
It’s strange and curious and unnerving, this waiting for Hurricane Sandy, billed as the worst storm to hit the Northeast since the Hurricane of 1938. I wonder where the birds and squirrels go, how they will protect themselves when the gale batters their tree-top homes. We live within the red-lined high wind warning zone in Massachusetts, expecting gust of 40 to 70 miles per hour at some point later today. Maybe overnight. And there will be rain. Lots of rain.
I worry about the trees that sustained so much damage in last year’s freak October snow storm, when the night was filled with the gunshot of cracking branches. Our neighbor’s old Silver Maple toppled into our back yard, blocking our kitchen door and missing the roof by inches.
And I worry about losing power for days. This is my biggest concern. I can’t withstand the cold, even as the weather is mercifully well above freezing this time around. The utility companies have promised speedy, efficient repairs to downed wires. They’re anxious to repair their damaged reputations from last year’s storm that left thousands without power for days and even weeks. We were lucky and provided hot meals and showers for neighbors who went without heat. But will our luck hold again? If everyone loses power to this monster storm, where can we go?
It’s a stark reminder of how control is an illusion—often the way I feel about my health. A week ago Sunday, out of the clear blue, I woke up with cellulitis in my left elbow, just one hour before I was leaving for a two-day business trip to New York. Not knowing how quickly the red, puffy skin infection would spread, I took a gamble on managing with oral antibiotics that I always have on hand, per discussions with my infectious disease specialist, and headed out the door.
For the next 12 hours, on the train, at Penn Station, during meeting breaks and at my host’s home, I kept monitoring the progress of the warm redness, telling myself if worse came to worse, I was at least in a place with a high concentration of excellent ERs. “You know the cost of making a bad call,” warned the ID doc who was covering over the weekend, when I called Sunday night to report that the cellulitis had spread around the side of my elbow. “Yes,” I answered, “it could go septic.”
I promised I would go to an ER if I spiked a fever or if the infection spread any farther and prayed the antibiotics would finally kick in. Somehow, I got to sleep that night and woke to discover that the redness was receding. The rest of my meetings went exceedingly well, and I even had a spare hour to walk the High Line for the first time, under exquisite blue October skies.
That day seems a long time ago, already. Now I’m just sitting here, waiting to see if this mega-storm will be as bad as the forecasts predict, or if it will lose power as it spins over land.
We have no control over these things, of course. Whatever extreme weather we have set in motion with global warming, even if all the nations of the world finally get together and commit to reducing carbon emissions, we will all have to live with for years to come. At least we have excellent weather forecasting, unlike so many caught by surprise when the fatal ’38 Hurricane barreled over Worcester and up the Vermont-New Hampshire border. We’re also blessed with extensive emergency support. But there’s nothing I can do to stop another tree from falling or the wires from coming down. All I can do is stay indoors until the storm passes.
And there’s nothing I can do to prevent another mysterious bout of cellulitis or whatever else my scleroderma throws my way without warning. It just is. All I can do is take care of myself as best I can and not let this disease stop me from living my life fully. From where I sit, there’s no other choice.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.