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The Blessing of Being
Stand Firm [MS] ^ | 12/01/2005 | Ellis Anderson

Posted on 12/03/2005 12:30:04 PM PST by sionnsar

I received this via email. I don't know who Ellis Anderson is or where this piece first appeared. If you have information on this piece, please leave a note in the comments. - Greg

In the real world it's the end of November, but in South Mississippi, it looks like spring. Confused flowers bloom out of season and shrubs are festooned with fresh shoots. Trees are covered with new leaves the color of March, that translucent, sparkling green that speaks of promise and warmth.

But it's not warm. I stand in my yard bundled in jacket and gloves, surveying the swollen buds and new growth. There's the eerie sensation that I have somehow stepped into a parallel universe where time and place have been skewed or the world has tilted slightly on its axis. Yet the laws of season have not changed. This false spring is an act of nature's desperation.

Katrina stripped each plant and every tree completely. After the storm, it seemed as if a nuclear winter had settled in. Trees that never lose their leaves loomed like skeletons over their fallen comrades, limbs mangled, torn and twisted. Even those coastal sentinels we love so well - the magnificent live oaks that have graced our neighborhoods for generations - stood barren and battered.

Before the storm, I'd never seen a live oak without leaves. I used to delight in explaining the process to astonished Northerners. A freeze won't bother a live oak, I'd tell them smugly. They only lose their leaves in the spring, when emerging ones force the old ones off. It happens very quickly, so while they're not evergreens, they might as well be. And I'd always say this with a little pride, as if they were pets that didn't shed.

Katrina was no respecter of persons or plants. Without prejudice, this 'Great Equalizer,' took whatever we had. The oaks, the magnolias, the pecans, the camellias - all were naked in the aftermath. Flowers, flattened by the gales, withered in the relentless sun of September. I found that wearing red outside was a bad idea. Dozens of starving hummingbirds that had miraculously survived would dive bomb any bright color, hoping for a drop of nectar.

Like the trees, people on the Coast have been stripped down to the bones. Homes and possessions - the things we always thought of as offering security and happiness - are damaged or gone. Most of us lost family or loved ones, some killed by the storm, some forced by circumstance to leave the community. If you live here, something very, very bad happened to you and to everyone you know.

We'll celebrate Thanksgiving anyway because, despite the tricks of nature, logic tells us that it's really November and time for the holiday. Yet like everything else here, Thanksgiving will be different this year. Tradition will take a sharp turn. Those of us remaining will visit with family and friends and eat our turkey beneath blue-tarped roofs or in FEMA trailers, in tents or relief centers. Many of our community will find themselves in unfamiliar places, surrounded by strangers. It would seem that on this day of counting blessings, there are more losses than blessings to count.

But we have new types of blessings. There's the recognition that we're not alone and our community is larger than we could have imagined. Thousands of strangers around the world have opened their hearts to help us. There have been the lessons of courage and patience and kindness extended in great adversity. Perhaps the most significant gift of all is that of an insight, one that's allowed us to finally understand the simple blessing of being.

Somewhere along the way, many of us bought into the idea that more was better, that money would solve our problems, that possessions would give us peace of mind. The losses brought with the winds of Katrina changed all that. It now appears that we'd been buying snake oil, believing it would cure the malaise of our souls. The things we thought offered security and happiness have been revealed as cheap charlatans. One of the most common phrases you'll hear repeated here by people who have lost everything is, "It's just stuff."

Of course, everyone here mourns the loss of material goods (universally, photos are the most grieved items). There's not a single person who hasn't taken a tremendous financial beating. But most will tell you that the gift of life itself and the spirit of community have been revealed as the true treasures. The scales have fallen from our eyes. We see with a new vision. Here on the Coast, our Thanksgiving prayer will be that we can hold on to that vision while we struggle to rebuild.

It's O.K to wear red now. The hummingbirds have either migrated or found enough false spring flowers to feed them. Most of the trees still standing have new growth, despite the drought of the past three months. I'm seeing signs of hope in people as well. Our roots run deep and are the source of our power as individuals and as a community. We can always grow new leaves.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 12/03/2005 12:30:05 PM PST by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Condor 63; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 12/03/2005 12:30:46 PM PST by sionnsar (†† || To Libs: You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar
Ellis Anderson lives in Bay St. Louis, MS. She is a local celeb for leading the fight against high density development in the area. This article first appeared on her Coastal Community Watch website. There is a link at the bottom of the page to the articles. All three of the "Ellis Anderson Chronicles" are proceeded by this message from her:
3 posted on 12/03/2005 9:12:49 PM PST by Between the Lines (Be careful how you live your life, it may be the only gospel anyone reads.)
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To: Between the Lines

Thank you! I have passed this on...

4 posted on 12/04/2005 11:16:46 AM PST by sionnsar (†† || To Libs: You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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