My dreams in Helsinki are never as vivid or as surreal as those when we’re on holiday. But, every once in a while, my subconscious plays a little joke on me as I slumber. This morning, my subconscious decided to remind that I evidently really love gin and need to read some Hemingway again soon. Or, simply, Cuba is on my mind.
Just before waking, I dreamt that I was at some rather random gathering involving sail boats and Christmas trees, neither of which are at all common in my waking world. Amidst the festivities, some of us sat at a rather plain table whilst several of my fellow real-life gin-loving friends waxed poetic and sang the praises of one gin or another.
As a bottle of one of those gins was passed around, I poured myself a rather generous glass. No ice. No tonic. No garnish. Just gin. [NB: As much as I do enjoy a lovely and refreshing gin and tonic on a warm summer afternoon, I’d never ever consider just pouring a full glass! ]
After pouring, I look up and across the table from me sat Papa Hemingway, without his captain’s hat or pipe, but most definitely his snow-white beard and paunch.
Looking on and seemingly otherwise rather bored, what was his reaction to my long pour?
‘Is that all for you, sister, or are you sharing?’
I woke myself up chuckling.
Dream a dream, and make yourself wonder what the hell goes on in that head of yours when you aren’t distracted by all the bloody noise.
I love hummingbirds.
Impossibly small and yet so completely resilient and strong. The first time I caught a glimpse of one flying about and feeding I was mesmerized and enraptured. That child-like delight has never left me upon seeing one of these tiny creatures. My heart always skips a beat when I stumble across a hummingbird seemingly floating in air on its silent and speedy little wings.
Each time we visit Cuba, the best days feature a hummingbird sighting. Spending sufficient time in one spot, we come to know their schedules. One of our best days ever we walked out the front door to find three flitting about and feeding upon the same bush.
This past trip, our hosts’ yard featured multiple hummingbirds, although I was hard-pressed to distinguish between the individual beauties. Witnessing a hummingbird fight for the first time left me utterly speechless and rather more in awe of these fierce, tiny little warriors.
Pancho, as our hosts named him, visited the same flowers each afternoon around 15.00. One day, I was fortunate to have caught these images. As I sat near this particular bush and tried to not move despite my excitement, I heard the whirring of air and wings colliding. Perhaps even more than seeing a hummingbird, being near enough to hear one’s wings was somehow perfect. But, watching one sit idly on a nearby branch in between feeds was even more impressive. I somehow never imaged a hummingbird sitting still.
My patience was rewarded that afternoon. I give you Pancho, the Cuban Emerald.
This is a book that makes me uncomfortable, but for all of the right reasons. If we are ever to confront racism head-on, we need to listen to and attempt to understand the effects persistent and institutionalised racism have on those it targets.
Assata, the book (and the woman who wrote it), is raw and unfiltered in many ways. Her anger and frustration and rage at social norms and the systemic racism that imprisoned her again and again and again and the criminal justice system who offered her anything but justice justify that rage.
Her rage should make us all examine why her anger and words make us squirm. It should force us to examine our own biases, and begin to shift our thinking and our actions.
This book made me think. A lot. And, I’ll undoubtedly continue thinking about my own privilege, my own biases and my own prejudices because of her words. This book will also make me more inclined to call out injustice of any kind when confronted with it, whether directed at me or others, friends / family or strangers.
There are days when things just flow easily, effortlessly and seamlessly. There are days when everything falls into place.
Today is not that day.
From work to my run to errands and administrative crap, it’s been a chore. A slog through bogs, both literal and figurative.
Helsinki’s skies offer nothing but rain, snow and the darkest of days. And, right now, both of us just want to hibernate, as both an escape from November’s nastiness and because mentally we are spent.
Soon enough, all of this will be a distant memory. We’ll soon be on that long overdue holiday, sleeping soundly and setting aside our gadgets and the daily grind for a stack of books and a lounge in a hammock. And, we’ll face reminders of just how uncomplicated our lives really are here in Finland.
But, until then, we just need to get through each of these days where night is endless and seemingly darker than ever….
Today, it’s all about waiting.
Waiting to start the 2017 addition of the Helsinki Midnight Run. (My start time is 21.25, Helsinki time.)
Waiting to hear how prepared and where are family and friends in Florida are hunkered down and hopefully safe from Irma’s approach. (Last forecast has her hitting the Florida Keys early Sunday morning local time, Sunday afternoon our time.)
And, waiting to learn the fate of those who are currently riding out Irma’s wrath across Cuba.
I hate waiting. For anything. But, waiting on all of this on the same day has me unbelievably restless and anxious and fidgety. And, the weather here appears to reflect my mood rather well — rainy, windy and generally miserable and unsettled.
There’s absolutely nothing we can do from here for those in Florida and Cuba currently either experiencing what I image to be hollowing winds and lashing rain, deafening and terrifying at once. I can’t help but worry about those we’ve met who live far too close to the water’s edge. I can’t help but think of the waves currently crashing over the Malecón, which will likely grow and intensify as Irma follows Cuba’s coast. And, I hope against hope that not too much is washed away.
And, I can’t help but wonder what will remain tomorrow and the day after.
And, then comes Florida, likely to take on the full force or Irma’s terror.
As I sit or pace or try to work and take my mind off Irma’, the faces of those I love flash before my eyes, whether in Cuba or Florida.
And the word that comes to mind is simply, ‘¡cuidate!’
Watching hopelessly from afar as disaster strikes is never easy. When it hits places once called home or where we’ve left pieces of ourselves and our hearts, there’s a certain pain that accompanies the helplessness and sense of loss. It’s akin to grief really.
Harvey affected far too many people, many of whom I love and places I frequented with my beloved grandmother and great aunt as a child. I can’t shake the feeling that a house on Prairie Dr in Eagle Lake, Texas sat sadly inundated with water, thus washing away some of my fondest and happiest of memories with family. The house no longer belongs to us; those memories, however, persist. And, perhaps that’s more important. Still, I love that house and hope it remains standing and dry.
Miraculously perhaps, all those I love in that part of the world, whilst affected, are not themselves lost. They remain safe. They can and are rebuilding, and that alone comforts me as I sit so very far from them.
Now, scarcely two weeks later, here we are again, watching as yet another monster storm tracks towards two places inhabited by family and friends alike, one of which has become a home I long for and fear for. Either Hurricane Irma will hit South Florida, where many of my very much loved and missed in-laws now reside. Or, she will inundate Cuba, that crazy, singular island inhabited by far too many friends and family I’d rather not see forced to endure yet further mayhem.
I can’t imagine the destruction accompanying a storm like Irma on a place I know intimately now, a place which persists on the darkest days here in Helsinki and carries me through the toughest of times. I cannot remove the images of pieces of the Malecón scattered across the roadway after a strong cold front brings ginormous waves for a day or two. Those waves now seem like mere ripples compared to the storm surge of a category 5 hurricane.
How much of that seawall will remain if a storm like Irma strikes? How many of those charming yet crumbling buildings along the Malecón or other parts of the Cuban coast will remain in her wake?
Like those in her potential path, we wait. Please, be merciful, Irma. You’re fucking with the lives of too many people I love.