It was a perfect storm first thing in the morning.
Gentle rain soothed like a lullaby, gently lapping unconsciousness over my attempt to surface into the day.
Just move, I told myself when I next poked my head above dreamy morning sleep.
The best I could do was fumble for the stereo remote.
Morning Edition broadcast a report from Japan about people enduring hunger, loss and misery.
Still in bed, surrounded by pillows, I rebuilt the structure that was washed away while I slept. It’s a barrier to keep me safe from images; only words are allowed through. I build the images myself from the safe side. I imagined abstract brightly-colored pieces shifting in a global game of winners and losers. This morning in Japan it was Nature 3, Humanity 0.
I threw the covers back a bit to ease out of the warmth into the conditioned air of daytime.
So far, so good.
I recalled with wonder the footage Watson showed me last night of the water rising. Not the one giant wave that comes to my mind when I think “tsunami”, but water that kept rising and rising. The ocean floor had shifted in her sleep, rolled over and sighed. There are only two responses to power of that magnitude, terror and awe. One more time, I was lucky…it was awe.
Watson, who watches everything, had deemed this footage safe for sensitive viewing. As a rule, I shun all visual images of tragedy but – this was nature flexing her might. No image I could build in my mind would do her justice.
“I love a natural disaster,” I said reverently, staring at the computer screen, safe in Watson’s lap, his arms around me.
“Until the AC goes out,” he reminded.
“Wow,” I whispered, watching ever larger chunks of debris wash inland as the water rose. Boards and unidentifiable objects floated in on knee deep water. Automobiles bobbed liked corks when the water grew waist-deep.
The cameraman rushed up the hill, then back down to the water’s edge, torn between primal fear and the need to capture the unspeakable.
The water kept coming. Semi-trailers churned in a frothy sea rising up walls to cover windows, then doors, higher and higher, until the buildings themselves wavered and broke, washed from their foundations. I was mesmerized by the unfettered power of nature as it swept humanity from its pedestal.
Morning Edition moved to the next story, ending my mind’s fascinating replay of last night’s disaster footage.
I listened to a segment in the ongoing coverage of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Neil Diamond, an alert sounded. I ignored it, entranced, my mind finally coming to life as I contemplated the artist copying earlier works trying to find his own groove.
And then I heard it: the first few notes of “Solitary Man.” I dove for the remote, couldn’t find it in the bedcovers. I lunged across the room but the song was full on before I could power down the stereo.
I’ve never been able to listen to his music.
Diamond hits the grief note that shatters the crystal containment structure I erected to protect my emotional core. His music vibrates the pain of loss through my mind, shaking the ground beneath me.
The cameraman’s footage had ended abruptly on a close-up of a small group of people standing on a pile of debris, water rushing around their feet.
I headed for the shower. It’s not practical to grieve every disaster that befalls us. But the music played on in my head.
An estimated ten thousand dead.
“…me and Sue, but that died too…”
The music reverberated in a loop.
Melting rods sent flames through subconscious chambers, blowing the top off one grief container after another. I felt the brokenhearted scream of an abandoned Katrina dog. How could I have known I would hear something so tragic on an episode of “The Dog Whisperer”?
Toxic emotion can’t be outlived, only contained.
Daylight savings ended yesterday, I remembered. 300mg of Wellbutrin would hit my synapses an hour later than normal. Plus I slept late.
“…right or wrong, weak or strong…”
I dressed in a frenzy, hoping to outrun the sounds and images — levees breaking, clouds of radioactive smoke rising.
“…Don’t know that I will but until I can find…”
I saw one face of the ten thousand. I heard one cry – from the cars, the buildings, on the streets, in the water – of one unbearable loss.
“…I’ll be what I am, a solitary man…”
I gulped down the meds at the kitchen sink. In the office Watson heard me. The sound of crying broke through the ache in his joints brought on by the rain.
“They played a Neil Diamond song on NPR.” I sobbed and collapsed on the chair next to him.
He put an arm around me and queued up iTunes.
He knows. You can’t outrun the pain, can’t fight emotion with intellect.
No, you fight music with music.
He pressed a button and turned up the volume.
Boogie woogie piano notes swirled like starlings around my head. Saxophone idled by like a slow moving train.
“…Jockomo feena nay. Jockomo feena nay. Baby you don’t like, now it was time I say… you gotta jockomo feena nay….”
Hoodoo music waved funky feathers and gris-gris, Creole medicine magic to chase the water back.
“…my grandpa, tell your grandpa, they was sitting along the bayou…”
The music flowed through me as I dug out of the mud and wiped the tears from my cheeks.
“…Iko iko feena ney….”
I walked to the back door to let Rumsfeld outside. He frolicked into crisp morning sunshine on grass shimmering with spring rain.