The pier at Damon’s Point, and the vestiges of the railroad bridge on both sides of the river,
illustrate the damage that storms can create.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, I went to the store to pick up a few items for dinner. To me, it seemed like a normal September day: it felt like rain, and my plan was to prepare a nice meal and enjoy a cozy evening at home. I was startled to find long checkout lines full of tense, hurried shoppers.

Full grocery basket in hand, I settled in for a long wait. I read all of the tabloid headlines within view, then began scanning the carts around me to see what my fellow shoppers were so intent on buying. Was I missing some great sale? Most people had stocked up on bottled water, batteries, and flashlights. They were purchasing canned goods and all sorts of non-perishable foods. The woman in line in front of me turned and looked quizzically at my armload of fresh vegetables and ice cream. “You don’t seem too concerned,” she said. I wasn’t. I didn’t know what the all fuss was about. “We’re going to have a big storm,” she said. “Hurricane Floyd is on its way.”

I rarely pay attention to the weather report. Even the most popular meteorologists admit to being wrong 50% of the time, so I rely on my instincts more than anything else. I’d heard about the destruction Floyd was causing down south, so I reconsidered my groceries for a moment, but decided to take my chances. It wasn’t even raining, let alone stormy. If we were going to lose power, it wouldn’t be for a few hours at least, and I’d certainly have dinner prepared by then. So what if the electricity went out and we had to eat the entire pint of ice cream to keep it from going to waste . . .

When I got home, I gathered candles, matches and flashlights. It was only 4 pm, so dinner could wait awhile. I changed into pajamas, made a cup of tea, and found a comfortable seat on the screen porch to observe the approach of the storm. I’d brought a book with me, but was content just to watch the rain. Normally I would have been working at my computer, but the threat of a hurricane was a good excuse to call it a day.

I like storms — especially the kind that render the roads unsafe and make me reluctant to leave the house. I actually enjoy staying indoors, closing the windows against the rain and wind, unplugging electronic devices to protect them from power surges. I don’t even mind it when the electricity goes out. I’m sure I would feel differently if I resided on the coast or in the flood zone, but living a few miles inland, the only significant danger I face is that of lightning striking or trees falling on the house. I don’t have to worry about the ocean sweeping the foundation away, or the river rising to flood the living room.

Culturally, we’ve become entrained always to be doing something: working, returning phone calls, tending to the house, and so on. Our lists of things to do seem never-ending — and there’s always something more to add. But storms, especially when they take the power out, provide us an excuse to do very little — or nothing . . . to slow down and relax.

I can compare it to high school snow days. When I was a teenager, waking up on a winter morning to discover that school was canceled gave me one day of complete freedom. I could sleep in and spend my time as I pleased, but more to the point, having completed my homework the night before, I had no further duties to fulfill for the next day. I could study if I really wanted to, but I was also free to talk on the phone for hours, or read a book, or just nap. These options were always available to me, but being unexpectedly relieved of my usual routine made it much easier to choose relaxation over work.

I’ve only recently recognized that such a choice is always present, that even when there is work to do, I can take a break. Studies have revealed that even the shortest time-outs during the workday make people more productive and efficient. Yet in our race to get everything done, we rarely bother to take care of ourselves. I used to fear that to stop working even for a minute would cause an irretrievable loss of momentum, but I’ve since found that pausing to take a deep breath or two every hour or so yields quite pleasing results. I feel better throughout the day; less rushed, less tense.

Storms should not automatically be dismissed as “nothing to worry about.” Here on the South Shore we’ve seen our share of weather-induced disasters: the 1898 gale that relocated the mouth of the North and South Rivers, the 1917 ice storm that took out Norwell and Marshfield’s Union Street Bridge, the 1939 hurricane that destroyed the Old Colony railroad tracks at Damon’s Point. More recently we’ve seen the homes and natural features of the coastline ravaged by high winds and waters: during the Blizzard of ‘78, for example, and 1991’s No-Name Storm.

Hurricane Floyd was downgraded to tropical storm status before it reached us. Although we felt its strong winds and heavy rains, it made an impact more on our lifestyles than anything else. Whether rushing off to the grocery store to stock up on necessities, or scrambling down to the water to bring the boat in, or cozying into the couch to get some much-needed down time and watch the rain, we were reminded that ultimately — no matter what we do — we are all at the mercy of the elements.

by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
September 1999

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.