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Fiona’s Wake


Paul MacCormack

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It’s been a spell since we last connected via this blog; August 19th to be exact. We were exploring the idea of Mindful Resilience and what it takes to build this capacity within ourselves. It is an interesting topic to dive into at the best of times, and even more so in the worst.  Little did I know then how many of these concepts would take center stage in my life of late.

On September 24th Hurricane Fiona arrived on the shores of Prince Edward Island. As an island on the eastern coast of Canada, we are used to storms… lots of them. Plenty of post tropical storms and the odd hurricane are common occurrences during the fall months, but to this point, none, in most people’s living memory, had come close to matching the sustained ferocity of Fiona. To date, this was the worst storm in recorded Canadian history.

To date, this was the worst storm in recorded Canadian history.

The storm utterly ravaged the middle and eastern portion of the Island. Tens of thousands of trees came down, damaging woodlands, homes and buildings of all types. 95% of Islanders lost power, some for up to 4 weeks. Storm surges gouged stunning dune systems, devoured metres of the red-caped coastline, destroyed wharves and bridges and damaged homes and cottages situated on the coast and in some cases swept them out to sea. As an economy dependent on primary industries such as farming and fishing as well as a tourist haven, it quickly became evident that we were in a lot of trouble.

Overall the damage and subsequent recovery were unlike anything we’d ever experienced before. Along with the aforementioned harm to homes and businesses, multiple golf courses faced extensive damage and many remained closed for the two weeks after the storm for cleanup or because of power outages. Some never recovered enough to reopen before the season ended. One in particular, Stanhope Golf Club, inland on a bay on the north side of the Island just outside a National Park, lost their clubhouse to fire when the tidal inlet they border flooded the lower portion of the property. It was one of many unfortunate and dramatic scenes to play out Island-wide.

Along with the physical recovery from the effects of the storm, there is also the personal recovery. The emotional and psychological trauma of a storm of this magnitude leaves indelible scars on the psyche of all involved. It also comes during the latter part of our collective trauma as a result of dealing with the pandemic. All in all, it was a lot to behold. In many cases it still is, as we are confronted with the aftermath almost every day. The woods are always a place of restoration for my family. Now every trail my family used to walk on is unrecognizable — those which you can even access.  This all has taken and continues to take a toll on well being.

The emotional and psychological trauma of a storm of this magnitude leaves indelible scars on the psyche of all involved.

As we moved through the early monumental cleanup efforts, I reflected on the themes we have been exploring in this series. So many of them were ever present during the various stages of our recovery and continue to be so today:

  • Vulnerability — It’s tough for many of us to simply ask for and receive help. During a natural disaster like Hurricane Fiona, you don’t have much choice in the matter. It can also be tough to know when it’s time to step back and care for yourself when everyone needs so much (this one was a bit more personal, as being a helping type person and proficient with a chainsaw makes one pretty popular during storms like these.)
     
  • Acceptance/Courage — It was really hard to accept the scope of the damage. So many trees and properties affected, it was really overwhelming by times. As we moved through the cleanup efforts, we had no choice but to accept our new reality and move forward.

    It has also become quite evident that there needs to be a new level of acceptance with regards to the changing climate. The ferocity of this storm was fueled by warming waters off the Atlantic coast of the US and Canada. It’s a new reality that is going to take a great deal of courage on behalf of humanity to accept so we can begin to more seriously address the issues at hand.
     
  • Letting Go — So many residents had no choice but to let go of how things used to be. The landscape of cherished scenery is forever altered, and our relative sense of safety is compromised by the reality of these new, more powerful storm events.
     
  • Self Compassion — During difficult times the idea of offering yourself compassion is vitally important. Processing damage and loss of this scale is incredibly difficult, and one needs to be able to afford themselves the necessary space to do so.

    It can also be terribly difficult to experience death during such times of trauma. My wife’s family experienced the tragic loss of a close family member two days after the storm. Unfortunately, life doesn’t pause for natural disasters, and it makes the idea of grieving and self compassion all the more important.
     
  • Community — The best of humanity often comes to the forefront during times of great difficulty. Communities are strengthened when they know they can absolutely count on each other. This small Island possesses a deep sense of community and it makes a world of difference. Sharing food with neighbours, lending a helping hand, offering out support to others; Islanders have a long history of looking out for each other but not everyone has a sense of belonging to a community. During a disaster checking in on neighbours can save a life.

As our small Island moves through the worst of the recovery process, our resilience will be strengthened. Our sense of gratefulness for what remains will be magnified. Joy may even begin to creep back in to our hearts if we remember to create space for it to emerge.  There is also a reawakening to the interconnectedness of all of those beings around the world that have been deeply affected by natural disasters. Our shared suffering allows us all to see that our petty differences melt away during times of difficulty.

Joy may even begin to creep back in to our hearts if we remember to create space for it to emerge.

As we allow ourselves to grieve and kindly process the events of the past couple of months, we will emerge into a new reality with a renewed sense of space and spirit. Being intentional about letting these themes take center stage will aid this process and this type of resilience building creates the fortitude we will all need going forward in this difficult era.

Thanks for reading.

 

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