It was the heat that woke me up. As I expect it will be the heat that keeps me awake until the power returns. Exhaustion, a good meal, a bit of wine and a shower right before bed at least allowed me a solid four hours last night. Coffee on the camping stove, a cigarette by the window, a charged phone to occupy my time. It should have been a good morning.
And then it wasn’t. Checking the information on some Facebook sites on what is open, banks, ice plants, gas stations, Supermarkets, I came across several articles and personal posts talking about, and sharing pictures of, the destruction in Puerto Rico. The pictures of the broken homes, didn’t do it, as luckily they are fewer than we first feared. The pictures of lines for everything didn’t do it.
No, it was a post from a man, living in states, thanking us on the site for the support he received after posting earlier that his father had passed, and how he could not get to Puerto Rico to see him before he died, or to bury him now that he had.
And then the pictures of leafless, broken trees revealing behind them buildings, or even entire communities previously shielded from view by a curtain of green, so beautiful and verdant that for me, the beach loving city boy, was the definitive trait of this beautiful speck of land in the middle of the ocean that became my home from the moment I set foot on it four years ago.
This morning, while enjoying the quiet before the lifting of the curfew, was the first time I actually cried. I came close once before. “Puerto Rico is no longer green,” is how I said it to a neighbor waiting in line with me at the supermarket the other day. And watching his eyes water almost did it, but a hand on the shoulder, and a bad joke about trimming bushes, spared both of us.
Today, I hope to go help a friend clean out their home, deluged not by the storm, but by a release of water from a dam that caused flooding in places spared by the hurricane. I need the distraction, and to see him and his family in person. To do something that feels like it helps the process of rebuilding, of healing.
Many of you have asked how you can help. Put pressure on the powers that be to act and to act quickly. While it lost its green heart, Puerto Rico has not lost its soul. People still smile, and share, and end every recounting of their personal losses with Gracias a Dios (thank God) in realization of the value of what they didn’t lose, of how much worse it could have been.
But, the lines, the deprivation of things we all normally take for granted like running water, or the ability to talk to loved ones, to get in the car and check on your elderly parents, or being able to just walk into a supermarket without having to wait, will take their toll.
We still share, but how long before we have to stop helping those without cash get something to eat, because our own supplies are running low? How long before the lines become unruly? We, and those in surrounding islands devastated by Irma or Maria, need help.
While nature dealt us a severe blow to our island, our society, our spirit, remains wonderful, life loving, warm. I hope that the actions, or inactions, of men don’t damage that. Because the trees will grow back.