2017 Life Logs, Day 279: Contact with Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco
Date: Friday, October 6, 2017
Weather: Beautiful Day; High 72, Low 64 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
I had contact with Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco tonight. Hallelujah! As you will read here, they are doing fine. But earlier today I was getting very worried. I had not heard from Justin since Monday morning. Normally we only talk every couple of weeks, but normally I know I can contact him if-and-when I want. This is not the new norm. Now I just wait until he can find a random way of communicating. So, I have been worried, and when I get worried, I go to the water. It somehow calms me. I spent part of this beautiful, warm sunny afternoon just sitting in the sand on Falmouth Heights Beach. I love the feel of sand between my toes, but as enjoyable as it was, when I got home, I still felt uneasy. I tried going to the gym and then food shopping. It was almost 7:30 when I got home and I hadn’t checked my phone for two hours. When I did, I immediately saw Justin’s message on WhatsApp. Thankfully, I hadn’t missed a call. At 5:30 he sent a message saying they were in Mayaguez for the night. They were going to dinner and he would call me later. Finally, I could relax.
There are only 78 cities in Puerto Rico. And although I am concerned about each and every one of them, I am most concerned about Rincon where Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco live. North of Rincon is Aguada where they used to live and north of that is Aguadilla. South of Rincon is the third largest city in Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. And tonight, it was from Mayaguez that I heard from them. They had checked into a hotel there for the night so that they could make contact with the outside world. We had a Skype video call so we could see each other and they all look great. There were big smiles from Ziggy and Coco which tells me they don’t realize they are in the midst of one of the most challenging humanitarian crises we have ever faced as a nation. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an island, really 143 islands. But only the big island and Culebra and Vieques are inhabited full-time. But the problem for Puerto Rico right now is that it is not a country and can’t make its own decisions. It is a territory of the United States and this puts Puerto Rico in a sort of lala land. They can’t really make their own decisions. We have sent help, but many parts of the island are not getting it, even two weeks after the storm. And from what I can tell, it is not always because the roads are blocked. Help is blocked by a bureaucracy that requires people in dire situations to first fill out forms. I will stop here and let the passionate words of my daughter in-law, Jo, tell you their story. As she states, it is long, but it gives you first hand insight into what is happening in the lives of one family in Puerto Rico.
From Jo’s Facebook Page posted Friday Evening from Mayaguez:
This post is so long. I wrote it at home on Tuesday afternoon, waiting for a chance to send it when I found a hotspot… tonight we have internet, so – boom!
No major updates to report from Rincon. Still no sign of any aid, official donations, official representatives of any nature. No news from the rest of the island apart from word of mouth, very little communication – the odd, unreliable wifi hotspot is all – no electricity, no running water and no cell service.
I have very little to say that others have not already said.
I am grateful for our rural haven in the hills, for our peaceable and calm neighbors, for the resilience and grace of my fellow women, men and children here on the island. I am humbled daily and have been brought, literally, to my knees several times during and since Maria: in beseeching prayer, in thankful relief, in grief, and again in prayer – prayers of hope, for courage, and in open surrender.
Many people who have considered the island home for some time have already now left, seeking respite with family, a place to be able to continue their business lives, schools for their kids, the securities afforded by modern industrial civilization. People have been departing however which way they can – military flights, cruise ships, long drawn-out waits for humanitarian flights by air carriers, even private jet…
I imagine that many of these residents will return once the going is a little smoother and what we used to call normal life begins to start up again in whatever form that may be. Many are now stateside raising funds for the island – deep thank you.
I am conscious that if things do not improve there may be another, yet more troubling, exodus of Puerto Ricans; people who are unable to remain at home due to lack, and are forced to migrate to parts of the US in order to find new opportunities by which to feed their families and live their lives. I fear that many will lose their homes. Businesses have been trashed and lost. Homes swept away.
Further economic exodus of Puerto Rican nationals would be a huge loss for the island. For the island to recover, she needs to be able to hold onto her young families, key service workers, small local businesses, graduates, fit and able workers, deep connections…
The worst hit area in the west coast region appears to be dear Añasco. It is a low lying coastal town in the flood plain of a river. 28 people are still unaccounted for. Many more are, tragically, dead. No help has come. Nada. It is an agonizing reality.
Maria has changed everything. We, personally, as a family are well. We are survivors, off-grid hardened, we have each other, our house is in tact. In many ways, I am more at home with this reality than with the strange, suburban soccer mom, hey-let’s-go-to-the-mall side of life that tries to half-smile at me during times of extreme comfort. Although I know that we have escaped lightly compared to so many, and for this I am both grateful and horrified in equal measure. We also have the gift of much responsibility – for our many animals and as caretakers of our land – so we are not idle, and we are connecting to the recovering earth daily, which brings both comfort and joy, as well as easy sleep.
We collect rainwater for drinking, have a small solar battery to charge our phone and provide a light. Night times we use an oil lamp and candles, we have very little gasoline so driving anywhere is to a minimum. We have been eating many bananas and roots from our finca, clearing fallen trees and planting many seeds. We try to keep a very clean and sanitized house, wary of sickness at this time of little or no medical provision, and we are grateful for our store of homemade folk medicines. We have a good water filter and are religious about hand washing and cleaning teeth.
Town can be a wonderful chance to exchange and meet other community members, but can also be a challenge due to hysteria exchange, rising panic, and the rumor mill. Everyone is a little shell shocked still – and many are still frantically calling and trying to get out, which can be an unsettling energy when one is remaining in place for the foreseeable, and trying to carry on, rebuild, renew…
Yesterday was a good day of friends to the house and children playing, laughter and joy, sharing and ease. Then a fifteen year old’s birthday party and more celebration, togetherness and light with dear ones.
Now, today, we recover from the late night (curfew has been pushed back to 9pm so we were out until what felt very LATE indeed for us in recent weeks). We are resting and siesta-ing, staying close to home, carrying out all the usual daily chores and tasks.
Earlier today I told the children how proud I am of them that they were coping so gracefully with all the changes.
‘Well, yes, school is different,’ responded Coco.
‘What else is different?’ I asked.
‘Yes. The whole world,’ she replied.
That’s about the size of it.
They are having fun. In many ways more fun than ever. They are learning more than ever, reading their own books, speaking to one another in Spanish, making projects, building an amazing fort, cutting and storing wood, building a wormery, collecting bugs, keeping field journals, painting, sewing, drawing, walking, biking, potioning.
No one is distracted by phones or to-do lists in the regular vain – although in many ways there is more to do than ever. But the schedule comes from us and from the sun, not imposed from the outside, which is a blessing. There is always time to read that book, look at that picture, examine that bug, climb that tree and have that cuddle. No alarm, no ‘we’re late’, no ‘hurry up’. Life is beautiful.
We are exploring ways that we may be able to share learning experiences, healing and positive growth with the children who will also remain in the area.
Money is tight, or non-existent, and all resources are limited, but children need their communities – as do their families – and need to heal and share their experiences in constructive, playful, and beautiful ways. Working with the young is, as always, an integral part of my reason to be.
As for the few of your many many messages of support, love, concern, offers of help, and refuge in your own homes that I have been able to read, words (for once!) fail me. I feel so lucky to know so many truly wonderful, kind, open and loving people. So many people from so many threads of our lives, people whom we cherish and yearn for and value and respect. It is an illuminating, chastening, sobering, reassuring, and soul enriching feeling to know that there are people such as yourselves not only that one can count on as friends, but to whom one is actually truly held as ‘friend’. I am happy to be your friend! I am happy to still be here, happy to be breathing and loving and working and creating. Happy to know you and to have shared time with you during my life so far. May we share time again in person, by a fireside somewhere, smiling and at ease.
I will soon have a comprehensive list of the needs of local people whose lives were completely washed away by the 6-10ft wall of water that barreled through their homes in Añasco, taking everything they own and many loved ones with it. As soon as I have concrete ways in which you may help these people, I will share.
In the meantime, if you would like to mail anything either to us specifically or for general distribution in the surrounding area, our mailing address is:
PO Box 870, Rincon, PR 00677
We have most of what we need personally. However, any organic seeds suitable for the region would always be welcome, same goes for art supplies, as these are things that we can use to help our community directly.
Already we have starts appearing from what we have planted, but we need to be able to feed as many people as our garden will allow, and to share seed far and widely; so, all the seed stock that you can spare, please send our way.
Same goes for seeds for sprouting – alfalfa, broccoli, sunflower, radish – and sprouting trays… sprouts are a great way that we can share fresh, green food with people very quickly…
Additionally, and for immediate relief, shelf stable food, and adult and children’s underwear, baby diapers of a range of sizes, as well as camping cookware, camp showers, water purification tablets, baby formula, baby bottles, reusable water bottles, personal hygiene products, lightweight towels, are all items that the people of Añasco’s playa community are in desperate need of…
The island is just as beautiful as ever. The waves are tasty, the ocean is clear, turquoise, refreshing, the rivers are full and fresh, and the island’s businesses need to open to serve people. So come! Book your flights, come down, enjoy the slow-paced life, get away from the winter and be a part of the regeneration of Puerto Rico.
Many blessings, much love, and deep gratitude to all of you.
Peace, from Puerto Rico ?? and to the world. ¡Hasta luego! ? ? ?? ?