Cold awakening: A reflection on Superstorm Sandy

After the storm in NYC. Photo by Barry Yanowitz, Flickr.

The lights flickered once, then twice, then off.

The cold didn't rush right away. It glided in like a young girl on ice skates, oblivious to sharp blades and hard falls.

Once it did arrive, I had nothing to do in the dark gray hours but keep it at arm's length. I avoided my own hands so their iciness wouldn't petrify me on contact. Warming soon occupied all my energy and thoughts. (That, and praying the house didn't burn down from one forgotten, whispering candle.)

The premature dark sunk its fangs deep into my bones. I couldn't shake it loose. I couldn't slip into sleep when warmth was leeching from my body, gasping at the night, and disappearing with no further fanfare. I had to let the cold come close, close enough to taste its metal, touch its prickly hide, smell the hidden blue snow building somewhere in a vast back room.

It sat around me for hours. Every so often it inched closer, twitching its eyes in the opposite direction and whistling while it did, as if to pretend the inevitable wasn't happening. Soon we were holding hands. I knew because I couldn't feel mine anymore.

And when the dusk succumbed to real night -- a transition my body didn't notice -- and all that remained were lightless shadows, I thought only about the tip of my nose, how I had no dignified way to warm it, so instead I considered it an Eskimo kiss from a ghost.

Prayer #229: What Superstorm Sandy Taught Me

Cold is easy to bear when you know your power will come back in a day, and you can pile on warm, dry sweaters while you wait, and you have friends to stay with if you're feeling grouchy.

Cold is easy to bear when you don't have to file insurance claims, or rebuild your home, or mourn a community.

Cold is easy to bear when you are not the one hardest hit, when you are not really the one they are talking about when they say, "those affected by the natural disaster."

In light of all this, cold seems fine.

So today I pray for warmth for those without it, for light, for energy and comfort and a return to near-normalcy, for the blessed boredom of routine. I pray that we who have it help others get it back. And I pray that we all gain the grace, amid the chaos and disruption, to notice what life looks like when stripped to its bare essentials.


Please consider donating to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts. Donate online at, or mail a check to: the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C., 20013. To donate by phone, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or give up to $10 by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.