My Heart Careening Over Slippery Dark Back Roads: My Vermont Irene Story, Part 3

“Where were you six days ago? We needed you then.” He said after a long pause in the conversation, his voice strung out with ache.

Geo had called me at the end of my first day volunteering in Vermont to ask if I could come back and lead crews again the next day.

“Yes” I said, “we have arranged things so we can come back tomorrow.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if you’d said no” he replied. “I’m done. I can’t make another phone call. I have to stop.”

Geo hadn’t stopped for the past six days. He’d been saving his neighbors houses, overseeing dozens of volunteer work crews, his own farm in ruins he had to take a break.

Where were you six days ago? We needed you then.

I hadn’t been there when the floods first hit. I hadn’t understood the devastation of the flooding and I hadn’t remotely imagined how useful my skills would be. I came when I came. When I had a ride with a friend.

“I’m sorry Geo. I made a mistake. I didn’t understand. I didn’t realize. I’m sorry.”

As his words sunk in it felt like my heart was careening over slippery dark back roads with no moon and risk of serious injury.

Where were you six days ago? We needed you then.

I carried these words in my sore throat as I went to bed resting up for another day of bucket grief and brigades of love.

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I’d seen the flood devastation for what it was: mud thick grief and washed out ache.

I was tired. I was alarmed.

I was driving home to Western Massachusetts at the end of my second day in Vermont feverishly plotting how I might rearrange my life so I could return to help more the following weekend.

By the end of my second day of volunteering I’d seen myself as the leader I am, I’d realized the town I was in was not only in the aftershocks of a natural disaster but also in the throes of a political disaster—the intransigent, and probably traumatized, town officers blocking relief efforts, and on top of all this I’d found myself gazing at the Governor privately behind the town hall.

I was tired. I was alarmed. (I was charmed). I was heading home.

Where were you six days ago? We needed you then.

What Geo had said to me was true. They needed help when the crisis hit a week ago. Less than an hour ago Governor Shumlin had said to me, “I need you” and fun as it was to flirt with the idea he needed me, what he meant was:

“Vermont needs all the help it can get and this town in particular. You showed up and now your leadership is needed. I don’t want to date you. I want to dare you to offer your skills to this community.

What was I thinking? That maybe I’d come back in six days? That maybe I’d help them sort out the conflicts and crisis then?

That would be six days too late.

When I got home to Northampton I called the local senator, who I’d met at the meeting with the Governor, and I said, “I’m coming back in the morning and I’m bringing a team. We’ll be at the town hall at nine, right on time.”

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My Vermont Irene Story—The Series

Introduction:  Oh My Water-logged Love, My Home, My Heart: Vermont

Part 1 :  Lead Me, Baby. The World Needs You. On Claiming Your Wisdom, Power, and Purpose in Each Moment.

Part 2: “Jasmine, you have ovaries.” Or how I got the Governor of Vermont to take me behind the town hall.

Stay tuned for part 3 of My Vermont Irene Story.

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Vermont still needs leaders! Go to: www.vtresponse.com.

To offer your financial assistance to recovery efforts please consider making a donation to the Farmer Emergency Fund.

To find out more about how Vermont is recovering from Tropical Storm Irene go to VT DIGGER.

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