“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elizabeth Kubler Ross
In my yoga training, there was a good amount of time spent learning about equanimity. Equanimity is simply the ability to remain calm, especially under tension or in difficult circumstances. It sounds wonderful, and I paid close attention to this discussion during training because I would really love to master equanimity, but recent circumstances made it clear to me that I’m a work in progress.
My husband and I evacuated via jet plane to Iowa in the days before Irma hit Marco Island. We watched the local news on our phone apps with all the equanimity of a volcano on the verge of eruption. The tension was so palpable that Mocha, our 12-year-old cock-a-poo, wouldn’t leave my side. She had to be touching me constantly. And when I would sit, she insisted on sitting ON me. And while she sat ON me she began to lick her paws. She continued to lick her paws until she had licked the fine fur off all four of her feet.
Too impatient to wait for the airlines to start flying back into Southwest Florida, my husband and I packed a cooler, three containers of gasoline, and our bare-toed dog in a car on Monday after the storm and embarked on what should have been a 24-hour road trip back home to Marco. We arrived 39 hours later with our sanity and marriage hanging by a thread. The trouble began just north of Atlanta. I’ll describe it as traffic, panic, and desperation. Traffic, three lanes wide, and bumper to bumper. Panic at the gas lines that backed up two cars wide, the length of each exit, all the way to the interstate. Preferring to move rather than sit in our car, we found our way to Highway 41 somewhere in rural Georgia and followed a meandering road through small town America in the middle of the night. This is where desperation settled in. The other drivers who chose this route were in a hurry, and willing to make up time by passing five or six vehicles at once. Up a hill or around a curve, didn’t seem to matter. I sat in the passenger seat with my right foot pressed hard into my imaginary brake pedal, praying we would survive the night. My husband sang. He never sings. Not in church, not the National Anthem, not even a familiar Christmas carol on December 24th, but on this night, when I was sure we were going to get rear-ended and start a chain reaction of gasoline-fueled explosions, Rick sang. Occasionally, in the wee hours of the night, as we would pass through dimly lit villages in northern Florida, he would stop singing and comment on the beauty of the architecture in the small town. That only made me worry more. One of us HAD to worry, and clearly, he was not doing his share. So, I doubled my hysteria. And Mocha licked her feet.
We pulled into our driveway and wandered around the house, seeing our home for the first time, post Irma. We were very, very lucky. Our house stayed dry and structurally sound. The damage to the outside was more than we wanted to see but less than what we imagined. But from the moment we arrived back on Marco Island, the fellowship of survivorship was in motion. People all around were looking after other people. Phone calls and pictures and drive-by evaluations happened everywhere. The buzz of chainsaw and heavy hum of utility vehicles filled the air during the day, but once the sun went down the electricity free island was dark and silent.
In the weeks since Irma, I have witnessed more giving and sharing; more listening and caring than I have ever experienced before. Strangers reaching out to strangers; neighbors checking in on neighbors; families huddled together in small spaces, grateful for the safety of loved ones. Experiencing an event like Hurricane Irma is humbling to say the least. Mother Nature throws her hand down with an eye-popping slap, and lets us know exactly who has the power. But Human Nature rises to the occasion with a heartwarming embrace. Priorities are re-stacked in the days of crisis. Lives and loved ones secure the top spot. Food and shelter shift to a close second, and we learn that we can live without material goods and modern conveniences when we need to.
Marco Island will be stronger in the days ahead. Our homes will be repaired, trees will be replanted and the majesty of the landscape that drew us here in the first place will return. Nearly everyone in our island town and the surrounding communities suffered loss. If not loss of property and personal goods, then loss of income, or time, or sleep. But it is through the rise from the depths of our loss that we develop a deep appreciation for life. Our individual experiences bestow lessons of survival, and compassion and deep-rooted gratitude for those who generously shared their time and resources. Our island will be beautiful once again, and the people who came together for the universal good of us all, their beauty didn’t just happen, it was created through a storm named Irma.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.