Monday, September 26, 2005


I feel like I'm in a time warp. Last Sunday, I sat on the sandy beach in Galveston. The sun was hot. Dolphins swam and frolicked in the shallow waters as I made new discoveries about myself. One week and one day later, I am here trying to remember every moment and wondering if it really happened at all.

Monday I rested on Sunday memories, smiling gently, and wondering about the possibilities.

News of the pending arrival of hurricane Rita changed everything.

By Monday afternoon, I had fueled my car, secured extra water for the me and the dog, visited the grocery store, and made preparations to sit tight while Rita approached the coast. The boy scout in me packed an overnight bag just in case. I spent hours on the phone, trying to decide if I should stay or go. The storm was expected to be dangerous - even catastrophic, and loved ones said, "get the hell out of there."

And so I flirted with staying and flirted with leaving for Austin and the safety of my sister's house. Unable to decide, I asked for spiritual guidance. "Show me a sign," I begged.

The sign came in the form of a ringing telephone, and a friend who needed a ride to Austin's airport on Wednesday night for a Thursday morning departure. Not one to argue with the Universe, I figured it was a pretty big sign and drove off into the night to pick up an eager passenger.

Just getting to the hotel to reach Steve was difficult, as freeway entrance ramps were closed to traffic to streamline the evacuation. Lines of idling cars clogged the freeways as residents fled north. After a quick trip to my apartment and some reassurance, I became an evacuee. Asking again for advice, I followed my gut, telling Steve to turn here or there as I checked the map. We inched our way to the back roads and off of the beaten path. This served us well, and though traveling was difficult and open bathrooms hard to find after midnight, we arrived in Austin, travel-weary, but in time for Steve to make his flight.

There was little time for goodbye. And he smiled and waved as he headed into the terminal and I drove into Austin.

The next few days were anxiety ridden as I became an addict - the news was my drug of choice. I watched and hoped that the weather would be tamed by some unknown force. I answered as best I could the questions of friends and relatives, and prayed for the safety of the people I love.

Saturday night...the shift occurred. Houston was no longer ground zero, but weary Louisiana was in the storm's sights. I rested better on my palette on the floor and petted the dog until we both slept.

By Sunday, I wanted my own home and my own bed, but was reminded by the national press that it wasn't my turn to go home.

This morning I buckled my dog into the back seat and started the engine of my orange Beetle. Not sure of traffic conditions or what I would see along the way, I headed home. I clipped along at 80 mph most of the way, and saw little evidence that the world had been forever changed in the passing of the previous week. The hot September sun was just as I remembered it to be. In Elgin, a sign warned of gas shortages ahead, but in Chappell Hill they were selling sausages as if nothing had happened. Just another Monday - I think not.

And this evening, I sit at my keyboard, my patio furniture back in place and the dishes draining in the sink. I hope the phone rings. The windchimes catch a light late-summer breeze. But somehow, the world is different. And nothing is as it was.

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