How did the wind reach down and pick up huge concrete flowerpots and flip them upside down demolishing what was left of the late season dahlias and geraniums? It looked as if a band of hooligans, burly, big hooligans had been on a senseless rampage.
I was trapped in Charlottetown during the hurricane. I arrived on Wednesday night to teach and present at the PEI Fibre Fest. The first grand celebration of fibre hand-work for the tiny island. I woke up Thursday morning to an email that said the organizers were thinking about cancelling the event. Hurricane Fiona was climbing up the east coast and was expected to hit the Atlantic provinces on Friday night. Later, with regrets, they confirmed the cancellation and warned us to get flights immediately in order to return home.
Of course there were no flights. So I bought food—crackers, cheese, popcorn, cherry tomatoes, kombucha, water (not a recommended grocery list when preparing for a storm)—and hunkered down in my tiny hotel room waiting for the hurricane.
Fiona arrived right on schedule with driving rain first. In the black of night I listened to the gale and looked out the window across a flat roof (that quickly turned into a deep pool) to a parking garage that was flanked by 4 and 5 story buildings. Through the eerie purple-gray light of the sky I watched the tops of two trees being mercilessly buffeted and wondered when their branches would let loose and how I would clean up my room if they hit the window.
The power went off early. The emergency lights in the hall only lasted a couple of hours. The hotel was black on the inside and relentlessly pounded on the outside. I had plenty of time to think. I only knew two people in the province and they lived at the other end of the island so they could be no help. There was no power, no food, no access to money, no taxis, no way off the island, no cell (mine later reconnected).
I hate to admit it but Friday night was all about me. What was I going to do?
By Saturday afternoon the winds were still high but I thought it was safe enough to go out and see the city. Siding, metal roofing and anything that could be dislodged from the sides of buildings littered the sidewalks. But it was the trees. Smashed. Upended. Exposing their intimate roots and the rich, red PEI earth that could not keep its grip.
I came across a small park skirted by roads and surrounded by old, tired, but still elegant Maritime homes. All the big trees were down. The smaller ones were mangled. A woman stood next to me sobbing. It felt like the respect you have when standing next to a stranger at the graveside of someone you both know.
The media reported with great relief; Fiona had taken no lives. But she did. She took the lives of thousands of our greatest allies. It is a time for mourning and reflection and perhaps a time to rethink our non-human relationships.