I had the opportunity to talk to an amazing woman at a party over the weekend. She emigrated from South America forty years ago to settle on a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. She , her husband and their daughter run the local general store on the island. I asked her how they had fared during Hurricane Irene in September and I have been thinking about our conversation ever since.
She explained that the wind had blown the Pamlico Sound completely dry and she knew that they were in for some serious high water when the water returned on the back side of the hurricane. I commented that I couldn’t imagine trying to prepare for something like that. How did she know where to begin? She just laughed and shook her head at my horror. She explained that she was used to the boarding up. That was the easy part. Harder, for her, was learning to let go of “things.” She explained that she’d learned a long time ago that there were no “things” that couldn’t be replaced if her family and the dogs were safe. So she focused her time and effort on what mattered and let the rest go.
As luck-or bad luck depending upon where you were located- had it, the storm shifted up the coast before turning and their home and the store were spared. The small towns further up the island suffered terrible damage from wind and water, as deep as 54″ in some places. Several houses were swept into the ocean, as well as major portions of the only road on or off the island. All the communities up and down the coast found themselves cut off from the mainland for more than six weeks, until a temporary bridge could be built across the worst breaks. There was no loss of life, but the property damage is mind-boggling.
Then I began to think how freeing it must be, to be able to let the things go, to be able to really prioritize. When I was moved from one school to a new center two years ago, I almost drove myself crazy packing and making lists and labeling, so afraid I might lose some of my stuff. A lot of that stuff is still packed in the book room! I can’t help but extend the idea of “stuff” to my teaching as well. How much “Stuff” is just that- routines that I hang on to because it’s “what I do.”? I’ve been thinking about this all week. This weekend, I am going to begin getting rid of a lot of stuff!