Sandy’s rainbow

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

Last week was not what I expected. I’m not sure I knew how to expect something like this. Even having been through storms before, nothing prepared me for the wreckage of Sandy, for the total shutdown in this city that moves with more vigor and constancy than any other. The subway system that never sleeps was down for most of a week. The electrical outage that coined a new neighborhood, SoPo, South of Power. The texts and tweets from those in the dark zone, as things got eerily cold and quiet.

I’m lucky to live on a high patch of ground in Brooklyn. Almost as soon as the storm was over, life in my neighborhood returned to normal. But it wasn’t a real normal. Marooned by transit in Brooklyn, it was strange to be going on with life, my team commuting from three boroughs to work out of my apartment, getting coffee at the coffee shop, eating muffins that taste the same as on any other day, while getting daily calls from my mother that she had no lights or heat, hearing my coworker fear that his apartment was being broken into, and realizing that just a few blocks away, Red Hook was devastated. It amazes me how local these events are, how one area can be completely unscathed while another just around the corner is destroyed. Part you wants to push towards normal, while part feels wrong, like normalcy is a form of ignorance of others’ suffering.

It’s clear that for many, the worst was not the storm, but what came after and what is yet to come. Still, when I saw the photos of the rainbows over the city in the wake of the storm, I felt what many others expressed in their tweets: hope. And I was reminded of many of the thoughts I had when I wrote that post a couple of months ago about the importance of rainbows. It’s a perceptual accident that we’re even able to see them — we evolved to see colors, of course, but there is no reason we need to be able to see rainbows. We’re lucky they happen to fall in our range of view. And perhaps that is why rainbows feel so like a blessing.

Of course, what hope needs to continue is help. Here is one site you can go to to provide urgently needed help close to where it’s needed. If you have Amazon Prime, you can take advantage of reduced rate overnight shipping to order supplies like flashlights and blankets and have them sent directly to the Rockaways.

It’s the beginning of a new week. A sunny morning, and many of the subway lines have started to come back. Our office is open for the first time in a week, and the class I teach at SVA will meet tonight. It feels as if everything has been on pause since the storm, and now it’s time to get moving again.

Screen Shot 2012 10 30 at 12 56 15 PM

Images: Conor McDonough and Matthew Kilgore

November 5th, 2012


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    Discussion (3 Comments)

  1. Linda on November 6, 2012

    I loved Sandy’s rainbow. The paradox it presents: creation and destruction, fortune right next to misfortune, etc.

    I am so looking forward to your book coming out. Will it contain all of your posts? It would be joyous to have them all collected together in one place.


  2. Mary Lou Landry on November 6, 2012

    It’s good to hear that you are OK. The sensation of a calm normalcy in the midst of devastation is an unsettling feeling. Yet it seems to come as part of any trauma or tragedy I have experienced. The unstoppable push of life reminds me of the Robert Frost quote: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

  3. Ingrid on December 3, 2012

    Thanks, Mary Lou. There is a lot of wisdom in that Robert Frost quote. Life goes on, and we go on with it.

    Linda, thanks for your interest in the book! The book will be a little bit different than the blog – it will be a more cohesive exploration of joy but many of the topics I talk about on the blog will be in the book. I’ll write more news of the book as it comes along!


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