Local Observation / ISLAND
By Christina Oxenberg
I drove around Big Pine Key gaping at the apocalyptic scene of the blasted scape. I couldn’t help myself. It is stunning. Blocks with nothing but the innards of homes. Other blocks with domiciles standing and occasional humans visible. Women raking. Men on ladders.
There is a pall in the air, this winter is colder than usual. There is a glare from the sun and few palm tree fronds to cast shadows.
Matter of luck what the hurricane’s path will be. One house stands and his neighbor is obliterated.
Along with the hurricane are the twisters snapping tree trunks and hurling them like javelins. Sometimes a direct hit on a roof, sometimes a miss by inches. Makes you think, if…
Driving around Big Pine Key is heartbreaking. Seeing the scrawled spray paint signs on plywood with ‘You loot We shoot’ and I had to acknowledge there were jumpy nervy exhausted people in these houses I was frivolously photographing, and they had guns.
The siege is awful, and life is currently crippled, but temporarily. Nature will regrow and the staunch Keys spirit holds strong. I see tops of palm trees with light green new growth sprouting; the future is bright, if still distant.
Then I met George who was outside a compact tidy trailer. He motioned to me, ‘Come sit with me, come talk to me,’ he beseeched. So I did. He introduced himself and told me of his military background and how his son wanted him to move to Connecticut to live with his family. ‘I stayed for the hurricane!’ he said. ‘I’ll go when God dictates.’
He jabbed at the air with his cane.
‘I’m ninety-one’, George said, ‘There should be a law where you get to an age and they do away with you. This is ridiculous.’ He backhanded a leaf with the cane.
‘You’re going to have to behave a lot less lively,’ I suggested.
‘What are you?’ he said, ‘a shrink?’