“Somewhere Over the Rainbow…”

Saturday evening I was doing a little clean-up in the kitchen and watching the clouds roll across the sky. I leaned over to get a better look towards the northeast and there it was – the end of a rainbow. It has been a long time since I’ve seen one that was as brilliant so I grabbed my camera and ran out the front door in my slippers.

It was a surprise rainbow because we had a very cloudy and gusty windy day. For over 24 hours the wind had been howling through the white pine, and the newly bared branches of the deciduous trees were whipping around and singing deep mournful songs. The wind sounds were unsettling. We very seldom get wind from due East and today the wind blew from the southwest, but whipped around the house and onto my east facing front porch to knocked on the windows of my reading room. We had gotten some rain in the past hour but the clouds were blocking the sunset so the rainbow was a big surprise. It seems strange to write it but I really needed this rainbow – without knowing I needed it.

It has been a very difficult month. The backside of Hurricane Ian combined with a super-high tide deposited a couple of feet of water inside our condo in Florida. Nasty brackish water contaminated with raw sewage. Things are working themselves out and we are fortunate on so many counts. The flood insurance carried by the condo association (FEMA insurance) was on site as soon as the water went out with the tide. They wanted to get a mold mitigator in immediately at their expense so mold wouldn’t form and migrate to the upper units which would lead to the city condemning each two-unit building. We had to go to Florida immediately but not until they told us we could get to the condo and it was safe. We were told the mold people were coming right away so we had to get anything we could salvage from the dumpster out of the unit and moved someplace else. We decided to drive because we knew it would be impossible to get a rental – and when we talked with our neighbor we learned that the Ft. Meyers airport was closed. Another neighbor flew into Ft. Lauderdale, was able to get a car and hotel room there and drove across the state every day. A neighbor with a second floor condo said we could stay there because one of them was receiving radiation treatment in Missouri and wouldn’t be going to Florida this year.

Our task was overwhelming. I didn’t fully comprehend how it felt to sit down on a chair and feel the dampness wick through my clothes, to open the bottom drawers of dressers and have the drawer fronts come off, and to work in sewage. I wasn’t prepared for having to make thousands of decisions about what couldn’t be kept, what maybe could be kept with washing, what wasn’t worth keeping, and what should be kept. I remember picking up an open box of Q-tips from an above-water-line drawer and thinking “those can be saved.” And then I pitched them because they didn’t have enough value to take to Michigan and back. Did I say our condo stank?

There was, of course, a boil water warning. Not a problem because we were eating in restaurants (that had a shortage of food) and drinking bottled water. But silly me! Our friend’s condo was our clean space, our comfort zone, our safe place. It never registered that the water I used to take pills and brush my teeth was that same water that went to our contaminated condo. Both of us got a bit of intestinal upset, but not enough to keep us from traveling north. We only wanted to stay three nights. Jim said he didn’t want to see our things taken out to the dumpster.

Yes, seeing the rainbow in Michigan after experiencing the aftermath of flooding was very welcome. I could hear Judy Garland singing, “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…” And I remembered the Christian Biblical story of Noah and the flood and the rainbow as a promise that God would never send a flood to destroy the world again. I didn’t miss the irony that we, the inhabitants of our world, are the ones who, through past and present actions, are causing the global warming and resulting extreme natural disasters. The greed and over consumption of developed countries could cause the destruction of our world this time, not God. I can hear my mother saying, “You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”