This is going to be a long one. Brevity is not my strong suit. When my emotional floodgates open, they’re very hard to dam up.
During Hurricane Sandy, while nestled in my apartment with the threat of lost power looming, I partook in the comforting ritual of scanning through my Google Reader. I read blogs when I’m anxious, when I’m stressed, when I’m bored. I have a bad habit of not commenting, even when the posts move or inspire me. Looking through my ‘starred’ posts, one from 3191 Miles Apart, wherein Stephanie Congdon-Barnes extols the virtues of a good mirepoix, caught my eye. I raised one eyebrow and gave an audible ‘hmph’, tucking all thoughts of that trifecta of vegetables into the recesses of my brain.
In the 24 hours after the hurricane, during which time I could not get in touch with my family on Long Island, I struggled to occupy myself. The only thing that would keep me still was a simple stockinette cowl knit out of navy lace-weight yarn. Under normal circumstances, nobody wants to knit with navy lace-weight yarn. But at that moment, it was all I could muster: it was tedious, repetitive, brainless. It took time, and I needed my time taken up. As I plugged away on countless stitches, that mirepoix floated back into my mind. It seemed a comforting thing to do – tend a pot on the stove for a while. Fill up the house with good smells.
A bag of carrots, a head of celery, and bunches of shallots cooked down and filled several ice cube trays with their potency. The act of parsing the mixture into those tiny squares pulled my mind away from the fact that my hometown was destroyed. All of the recognizable landmarks that gave the city flavor were gone, bits strewn across the landscape in places where they didn’t belong. Once the salt water receded, cars were locked in place by oceans of sand.
My family was very fortunate in that they were not hit as hard as others. The bedroom I inhabited during my teenage years, so cool and secluded in the lower level of the house, was flooded by a couple feet of water. I don’t know what I’ve lost yet, but per the memory of where things were last, it would at least be the majority of my photographs and polaroids from high school, all of the physical mail Scott and I exchanged during our courtship, all of my art history textbooks, and two ancient typewriters that composed so much poetry in high school and college. To me, those things cannot be replaced – but, unlike others, I do still have a house to come home to. My parents’ business was totaled, but they’re already in the process of repairing and rebuilding.
Others have not fared so well. Entire neighborhoods burned down. People have been without heat and electricity for a week now. The empty tin cans are piling up in trash bins, without any place to go. And the only water that runs is contaminated.
In between the news coverage, the obsessive checking of social media outlets for updates, and the rest of my life – two jobs, graduate school – I managed to finish my cowl. It’s simple, like some of the best things, and cozy, and will serve me well. The mirepoix will be the flavor base for numerous soups, risottos, and calzones to be made in the coming week. I feel so compelled to help. I feel so lucky that my family still has so much. I would give it all away if I knew that it comforted and helped others.
If you have the means, please donate to the Red Cross, or to whichever relief organization you support. My hometown is only one place of many that suffers in the wake of Sandy. I know that people need all of the help they can get, and will be heading down for a week to lend a hand wherever I can.
I want to come back to this space. The craft community that I witness online is one of the most inspiring places – and I don’t want to be a quiet voice in that sea of people. Now especially, I see the impact we can have when we come together and work on behalf of those who need help.
I’m off to spend a week camping out in my childhood home. I hope that all of your loved ones are safe and have not been impacted by the hurricane. Hug everyone extra tight today.