Weathering The Storm
My husband, kids and I have been getting some major ‘street cred’ for tent camping through Tropical Storm Isaias. We camped for 5 nights at Cedar Point County Park in Easthampton, 25 miles from our home. If you were traveling there during rush hour it would feel more like one hundred miles away, especially in this overly congested pandemic summer and the high number of people that have fled New York City and been living here since March.
Summer 2020 has brought many changes for all of us. Living through the pandemic has been a lot, to say the least. I am grateful that my family and I have been fortunate and have not been as negatively affected as so many others. With the extended school break I decided to enroll my kids in a Waldorf Farm Camp, also in East Hampton. I’ve been aware of the camp for many years but I never enrolled the kids because of the hour long commute. Fighting Hampton summer traffic to get to this lovely camp would not be worthwhile no matter how great the stories and singing were. However, this year it came to me that perhaps we could go camping for the week nearby as a sort of make shift vacation, considering we have not left Long Island since February when we went to Portugal.
We left on Sunday afternoon when traffic was lighter with two packed vehicles. Our pick up truck was loaded up kayaks, bikes, and firewood. The Toyota Highlander with our tent, sleeping bags, clothes and food. We pulled up to our campsite near the playground. A short walk would take us to the bay, the bluffs and a historic 40 ft. granite lighthouse. Monday morning we were up early after a so-so night of sleep in our sleeping bags on self inflated sleeping bag mats. We ate breakfast and dropped the kids off at the camp on a small farm. At pick up, the kids were excited to show us the magic wands they made from yarn and sticks and tell us about potato harvesting. They seemed to have enjoyed the first day of the Waldorf camp. On Tuesday, we made the same drop off, and to our surprise no one was there. My phone had very little battery power, so I plugged it into the car and checked my email. The poor service had me wait a while but I finally came across an email stating camp had been canceled due to the forecasted Tropical Storm. I had heard mention of it before we left but my husband and I were enjoying being unplugged and letting our phones die and had not been tracking it. At that moment the weather was sunny and clear, so we decided to drive out to Montauk. We took the back roads, got a quick snack in town, and went for an incredible hike at a state park overlooking another set of bluffs. I was reminded of years back living in San Francisco and the iconic rocky western coastline.
We noticed the bunkers hidden amongst the coastal foliage, which got our family talking about the soldiers that utilized them back during FDR’s presidency during WW2. The afternoon continued with a trip to the beach and a swim in the ocean, which was surprisingly calm. I was glad we were making the best of the day. Then the clouds started rolling in and sure enough there felt like a storm was brewing.
We try to stay outside as long as possible, so when the rain came we could save our indoor time and have a meal. Finding a place to eat indoors on the congested East End during a pandemic was challenging. Eventually, we found a spot at a diner, ate pancakes and eggs and got back to our campsite at around 4 PM. As we drove back we felt the car move as it was hit by wind gusts. We started seeing large tree branches on the ground and flying tree debris came down along with the rain. When we pulled up to our campsite the sun started to come out from behind the clouds and the rain slowed to an on and off drizzle. Our tent looked like a parachute about to take flight. We sat in the car for a moment and stared at it in awe. Then we made a mad dash for the tent carrying armfuls of card games and the books we had bought at a nearby library book sale.
We laid on our backs, listened to gusts and watched how they affected the tent. We distracted ourselves by reading our books and stopped frequently when we were startled by the larger gusts that hit the tent so hard that it pulled out the stakes. The excitement overpowered the fear that was also present. Eventually the excitement had the kids and my husband jump off their sleeping bags and spontaneously erupt into an imaginary game pretending they were on a ship that was battling a storm. They were yelling, ‘raise the sails’ and ‘batten down the hatches’, as the wind shrieked. I laughed watching them, as we weathered the storm. A little while later, I exited the tent into the whipping winds and made my way over to the campsite public bathroom. I noticed the practically vacant campsite with large fallen branches and down trees throughout the camp grounds. I wondered how long the storm would continue and if we should evacuate. The 30 to 40 mph winds made it impossible to even attempt to break down and pack up our tent and the rest of our campsite. On the other hand, would we be able to make it through the night with such heavy winds? There were very few hotel vacancies in the area and the ones that were available were $500 a night and higher. I bought my phone charger to plug my phone into the bathroom outlet, the only outlet I had noticed over the past few days. As it charged, I got a weather update. I was relieved when I saw that the winds were supposed to subside starting at 8 PM and that the weather advisory remained only til 2 AM. I walked back to camp and shared the weather update. We decided to get back in the car and get pizza. When we got back to camp, the winds had died down and we spent the night with heavy but quieter winds. The morning came and the storm had passed.
The next morning we felt empowered and we even decided to camp an extra night! I was proud we rode it out and it felt symbolic considering the state of the world. During the storm after I charged my phone, I received texts from my college friends. I heard the story of one friend, who is a teacher in Georgia, with four kids feeling the stress and uncertainty around the upcoming school year. The storm we experienced felt like a microcosm of the larger ‘storm’ of the pandemic the world has been experiencing over the past six months. More alarming, is how many have been living on a tightrope long before COVID. The five day getaway in the wilderness was a comforting break from the stress I shared with my friend about my children returning to school in September. Hearing individual’s stories of the negative impacts of COVID reminds us over and over how fragile our society really is. Japanese writer Haruki Murakami beautifully states, “And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.”
As schools reopen and November elections approach, we contemplate how to move forward. I pray that we all weather the storm. My prayers also include hope that although it’s stormy now, that the path we are headed on leads to sunshine and who knows, maybe they’ll even be a rainbow waiting on the other side.