We're dazed by images of devastation along the New Jersey Coastline, Caribbean, and in New York City. Around here, thankfully, most of us were safe. I see uprooted trees, flooded streets and debris, but no loss of life. Those most affected by the first impact of Sandy have endured something much more severe.
This kind of collective trauma tends to shift our attention away from candy and costumes, though both are wonderful in their moment. I taught a yoga class this morning, and invited my students to seek sharanam, a sense of internal shelter.
For the first Halloween in my life, I feel frightened. I'm not in danger. There's no real need for fear. This is a response to the vulnerability many of us felt Monday night when we had no option but to be within the tumult of wind and water.
After I identified my fear, it was quickly followed by gratitude. I should feel frightened. I should feel vulnerable. Often, the Mid-Atlantic region resides in a state of ownership over the natural world. Our buses and trains run on time. Our relief efforts are quick. We're accustomed to snow and plow roads quickly. Even extreme heat and possible power outages don't slow us down.
Most of the world has a more intimate relationship with vulnerability. Whether due to poverty, or linked environmental degradation, most humans and animals don't feel invincible. That sense of exposure, or possibility often assists a network of connection, community support and humility.
The exploitative colonial deforestation of Haiti has made it incredibly susceptible to hurricanes and earthquakes. Lingering poverty makes the impact of these events more profound. Impoverished communities along the New Jersey coast and within New York City are also bearing a larger brunt of Sandy.
Those of us with access to higher ground, a tax bracket that allows for speedy recovery response and sturdy inland homes can often weather storms with less personal disruption.
I'm sitting with fear on Halloween. Not fear of goblins, ghosts, or ghouls. Fear of industry's lack of concern for the natural world and relentless pillaging of trees whose roots can hold soil against land slides. Fear of polluted waters. Fear of practices that contribute to climate change, raise the temperature in the sea, and strengthen a hurricane's momentum as far north as Canada. I fear being vulnerable in the path of destruction.
My gratitude for the fear is my sense of purpose. Environmental advocacy is important to me. Working mindfully against poverty and policies that impoverish feels imperative to me. I am vulnerable to the affects of climate change and severe weather. I am also engaged in advocacy for the planet and people I love.