Waiting for Hurricane Leslie in Bonavista NL

What It Feels Like To Wait For A Hurricane, Especially One Called Leslie

A storm is coming and I- like all of Newfoundlanders am sitting waiting for the unknown uninvited Leslie.

Now realize us Newfoundlanders love visitors – love them-spoil them – feed them our own home cooked historical foods – give the shirts off our backs – call them all darling and mean it – and when you leave you will miss all of us.

However, I would like the silly Newfoundlander who invited someone called Leslie onto our rock to come forward and tell us all why and do they know of what they are putting us all through by doing so? Leslie of all names – sounds like a woman with a man’s name or visa versa

We just heard about our strange excited, powerful and devastatingly big visitor coming just last week and more in the last couple of days. Now we Newfoundlanders are pretty smart and our street smarts are off the charts but we are all confused. CBC tells us there is a storm coming really a hurricane and it will hit St. John’s, Clarenville and our beloved home Bonavista. Then CBC goes quite silent on any further information.

The weather channel on cable 37 tells us it is a Hurricane, one called Leslie. This is being classified as a category 1 like our last uninvited visitor Egor – who on earth comes up with these names?? – and can be as high as a 2. Then some bright person now says there are 2 storms. One is coming from the North – a large weather front hitting the west cost of NL that will bring lots of wind and rain then hit Gander and then hit Bonavista hopefully worn out or menopausal so it will be down to a dribble. Ahhhhhhhh we Bonavistites relax – oh not for us – great- good -phew!!

What is this? Cable TV Weather Network is saying there is a Hurricane, a different hurricane and it is coming from the South and will hit all the eastern coast arriving Wednesday – no Tuesday – or Monday night or it will be a category 2 or is it a 1 – if it is 100 km/hour is a tropical storm and if it is 120 km it will be a hurricane – oh that really helps a lot.

The Elephant Shop’s standing room only is now empty of any living soul on a Saturday. Looking out the window at Church St. our busy main street- my assistant Natalie and I realize it is entirely empty. Where are they all? Home, drug store, hardware stores and the computer shop buying phones and whatever else is needed for a hurricane. I get the hint and by noon Natalie and I are out of the shop as fast as we can to do what everyone else is doing – stocking up for visitor Leslie.

Glenn and I sit down to make lists especially for our own guests that were invited to stay at our cottages. Their names are normal – Tom, Jane, Bob and Alice. Not Egor or Leslie. They are definitely trouble.

I found at first I just wanted to prolong my fantasy that everything is normal and fine. I wanted to have my breakfast like always – in bed – a tray of blueberries in one small bowl and a cut up banana in the other. I love coffee and one piece of rice bread baked by my hubby – mind you one can throw it off the wall and it will stick truly but if one toasts it 3 times at setting 9 it is the best filling bread available. Oh and peanut butter with blueberry jam on top with the other ½ with smoke salmon and a good book. Not to be eaten my mate – to hide in body mind and soul when other things are making my own life feel threatened.

However, that is not to be today since I watch and feel that Glenn is reliving the panic of the unexpected – that uninvited visitor of Egor that snuck upon us all in Bonavista. What a shock and what a mess for us all. Most of us do not realize we all suffer from the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from Egor with no one to help us get our feelings out. They are buried deep in us all along with the water that flooded out our precious homes, our memories, our scrapbooks and our feelings of safety in our own town forever

Now to all of you who have not had the pleasure of experiencing a hurricane dropping 200 cm of water in 4 hours with winds 150 km with the ocean lapping up your window one cannot realize the trauma this brings to one and all. Added to this is losing electricity so with the thunderous ocean the basement flooding with no lights is daunting. To be in the basement with a sub-pump going all the while the water getting close to the 1st floor with radiant floor heating (electrical) and then hear the sub-pump cut out while the water is at your chest – and suddenly you are truly alone – silence is deafening as is the loss of hope

Who wants to face all over again their own trauma from dear old uninvited visitor Egor- basements that were made into family rooms – beloved since they were all built with the hands of the owners – an added place to go to relax as a family. Treasures are there along with memories of long ago small children who live 8 hours or more away. Gone in 4 hours left as a soggy mess of 40 years of memories of good times and not so good. Gone leaving only the thought of how can I possibly build it again? Insurance companies with millions of papers to fill out telling your story ad nauseum with clauses asking, “How much is the damage – 15000? Sorry you are only covered for 5000. The heart break of starting to pull out the soggy mess and then what?

Glenn and I finally went and bought a propane generator that is hooked directly to our own large propane container. I also have my invited guests who are staying at both of my cottages. I go through my mind and with Glenn how best to protect them, how to get food to them along with hot comforting coffee and how to help with anything and everything they will need if electricity goes out or god forbid the water system fails.

Glenn and I go to our local cafe with our dear friends Sharon and Harvey and the rest of the Bonavista locals. This is the heart of the gathering place when things are good and when things are going very wrong. Nothing really is said until one hears an update on the weather channel and then the discussions abound with all of our feelings that we have no idea what is coming. Who to believe radio or TV? Well it comes down to the fishers’ who know weather like they know their own breath. We collectively figure it out – 2 different storms one a tropical storm hitting the west coast and the other a hurricane coming here to us.

We sip our coffee and eat our date squares, which by the way are the best-made ones in the world. Sharon is a great cook with receipts going back generations. Comfort food I realize as I finish a whole half of her large typical squares. I was even picking up the crumbs fallen back to the plate – and guiltily realize I am eating this like it is my last time. T’is a comfort here to talk about nothing and be with folks that you all know who also love to chat about nothing – oh ya the local gossip is always interesting and the Newfoundland humor – can’t get any better than that mate!

Yet there is an unspoken thought creeping into my mind and heart when I listen to the visitors planning their escape from the upcoming hurricane. It is normal for them to say to me “Oh it will be fine. The hurricane is coming Wednesday so we will leave Tuesday.

Is there anything about this statement that strikes you as kind of off? I am standing helping them plan their escape and they do not realize or see me as a person who cannot escape this hurricane. They smile very happy with their realization they will get out. Perhaps it is my little girl inside me saying – Hey – I am not able to escape – do you have any feelings for me? Any feelings of empathy that I and all my community friends will be left behind to face the wrath of this huge hurricane does not seem to occur to them.

I feel abandoned while those who will be safe plan their escape. I remember a time when that feeling hit me like a slap in the face. I was leaving to go back to the freedom of Canada while the Latvians who lived under Russian rule with the Gulag, the late night knocks at the door, the poverty, punishment, horror cannot cross that invisible line and come with me to safety and freedom.

I with both arms full of flowers – the Latvian tradition when one is arriving and leaving – they were gladiolas filling my arms and I am filled with such shock – because I turn to say hey come visit me next year – only stop my mouth from saying such a thing. I watch their tears and smiling faces those who I have come to love and I have not told them I am sorry – I will pray they too become free they too will find peace and a safe place to live in. I did not let them know that I knew what I was leaving them to face – along and together.

So if you are in any country when a hurricane or volcanic spitting threatens those who live there or if you are in a province such as our Newfoundland please remember when you are happily planning escape to safety – mind what you say – and remember it would mean the world to us no matter where we live – that you acknowledge that we are being abandoned at the very moment when we may feel helpless and have so much on our minds about how are we going to stay safe with this hurricane coming. Just say – “I hope you will be ok” or is there anything I can do now that can help you get ready?” or “I will watch closely on the news to find out how you all are doing” or” I will say a prayer for all of you and ask that this hurricane be kind and caress your beautiful homes on the rock so we can come back again” or I want you to know I care that you have to go through this hurricane and will keep watch to find out how you all are and that you all are just fine.”

Well now … I’ve been blathering on and did not hear the wind coming up.. the drops of rain on my window.. ah I say to myself – it is here. No longer thoughts of being safe. No longer feelings of abandonment. I feel I am going to escape into my wonderful world of books – Jason Bourne – who conquers all, who always beats the bully and who always keeps himself safe protecting those he loves.

Well he and I will be together while my husband hides into his book with the good guys always getting into trouble and survive and I watch my 3 rescue dogs feeling perfectly safe because we decide to be safe no matter what comes we will make it … as we always do no matter the cost…

Only made in NL … written by ej



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