Rhode Island Research: The Great Hurricane
Over the course of writing my book, which took many, many years, it would always be sort of cool and sort of weird when the events in the story came into confluence with reality. For example, working on the Fourth of July scene when it actually was the Fourth of July, or writing about Becca’s journey to the Willows when I myself was traveling by train. Fiction and reality could get mixed up in a crazy and fun way inside my head and the writing and editing process would take on a special clarity, a certain obviousness (of, course this is the way it happened!)
I write this blog post, having just experienced a spectacular weekend under the glow of the full harvest moon. On Saturday night we watched the yellow/orange orb rise slowly in the sky. For the past three days, the high tides have been extremely high and the low tides have been extremely low. The yellow jackets buzzed around the garden frantically knowing their time was almost up. This morning, the rains came. The wind might not be blowing, but it is coming down hard and the skies are grey. I can’t help thinking about Bunny and Becca (characters in my book you will just have to wait for!!), on that afternoon, seventy-eight years ago, this week, when the great Hurricane of 1938 took them by surprise. The full moon, high tides, and high winds all converged to create tidal waves that destroyed whole towns across the northeast, hitting southern Rhode Island possibly the worst.
Last night as my husband flipped through the channels, waiting for the Red Sox to come on, he accidentally came across a special on Rhode Island PBS about survivors of the hurricane. It included surprisingly vivid film footage of the storm as well as the destruction in its aftermath. I was transfixed by how frightening it must have been. The loss from the storm was tragic, but what I couldn’t help thinking as I watched the black and white film of waves, bending trees, and homes disappearing into the surf was how scary. How scary to experience what have must felt like the end of the world in 1938 without help on its way and without immediate communication with the outside world. The hurricane scene in my book could have been even more frightening and still would never have been an exaggeration.
And then as if I needed another poke from the universe, when turning to Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart this morning I read:
September 19 – Weather the Storm…. Just as nature plays out her storms, sometimes with violence, sometimes with gray days, sometimes with a gentle cleansing rain, we have storms in our lives, storms in our soul. Storms are a part of life, part of growth, part of the journey….
Does Melody know what hurricane season is like on the east coast? If not, she certainly knows about scary. Storms are part of the journey and so is overcoming them. The most important thing to remember is that storms don’t last forever; they come into our lives and eventually leave. They are usually tumultuous, but relatively short, and the human spirit has, time and again, just as it did in the months and years after the ’38 Hurricane, found the fortitude to rebuild.