After beginning with a logistics tangle of nightmare proportions due to the impending hurricane, my vacation was lovely and I arrived home about half an hour ago, a day before I'd planned, but then, I'd left two days before I'd planned, and I was ready to be back and see for myself that all was well in my own little den.
It's not that I didn't trust Tim's reports on the exceptionally untouched state of my abode and the return of electricity. But after hearing the news and seeing the pictures, I just needed to be home to feel that it was over and to really understand that I'd dodged that bullet, and everything was going to be okay.
And I did. And it is. And I'm sitting here crying, out of exhaustion after a long day of traveling, yes (at midnight Sunday I was in Canada), but also out of an overwhelmingly humbled sense of gratitude.
I am all the more amazed at how untouched my life was by the storm buy seeing how much of Houston was violently touched. It's visible on an enormous scale, and in tiny details. As we approached Hobby and were descending over the city, I was sobered at how dark Houston still was. So many unlit patches. So many broad areas without power.
I had to pay in the lobby of the garage I parked in instead of the exit booths because of the skeletal power system they were running on, and even in the lobby the employees were all fanning themselves in the dank, heavy air. Hobby isn't in the best neighborhood, but now the place looks deserted, like a ruin, with traffic lights dark, some hanging by wires still, store fronts unlit, street lights off. I had to stop at all three of the intersections you go through at Broadway and I-45 to get on 45 northbound. The signal lights weren't flashing. They were completely dark. It scared me.
The enormous light poles over the freeways are running, but again I was bothered by a difference. There's light, but nowhere near the level of illumination of surface, of underpass, of signage, as I'm used to. And it may be hypersensitivity on my part, after my time in the more pristine air of the Pacific Northwest, but the city, the entire city, smells like a stale drain. It's not rank, but it's pervasive and ubiquitous.
As I got to my street (the exit ramps to which are no longer under water, thank goodness), there were signs blown away, small trees and some tree limbs down, and one building severely damaged, but the general infrastructure seemed sound and lights were lit, traffic signals functioning. Still, the smallest things seem to glare at me. All the street light poles used to be straight. Now each of them leans at a slight, and slightly different, angle. It's a tiny thing, like I said, but it adds to the unsettlement I feel after seeing all of the large things. There is no haven of perfection. No place untouched.
Until I drag my luggage across my complex and up the stairs to my own unit. Open the door. Flip the switch, which actually turns on the lights. I go over and turn the thermostat back on and the air conditioner kicks in. I look around at all the things I left behind, and left in God's hands, because there was no way I could take care of them before leaving town. I open my refrigerator which doesn't reek because Tim cleaned the perishables out for me. I open my freezer and find the popsicles that have been in my freezer forever, and all of a sudden seem perfect.
I guess it's not untouched and perfect. I lost some food. My network seems to have forgotten that I named and secured it. What preparations I did make are still in place. But it's SO much better than it could have been. Nothing I own was damaged. My friends are all okay, and none of them suffered irreparable losses. Oh, God. I'm so overwhelmingly, unbelievable grateful, and at the same time I hurt to see that so many people were so hurt when I haven't been at all. I'm tired, like I said, so just about anything is going to make me weepy. But it does all make me cry all kinds of tears.
I have journals from my trip that I will post at some point, but now doesn't feel like the right time.
I'm just so glad to be home. I'm just so glad you guys are all okay.