Snowstorm, Austin, 2021

Reflection on Storms, Outages, and Shared Humanity

I’m an Austin, TX-based writer. It’s three days since my electricity was restored after the recent snowstorm/power outage situation in Texas. I just walked the familiar trail around Laby Bird Lake, an almost daily ritual (and luxury) for me and for many Austinites. I also got a matcha. Doing both felt like heaven. But still, I’m finding it oddly hard to sink back into “normal” life. I’m slowly realizing why readjustment is so hard.

Things I’ve learned over the last week:

1. Our ancestors were some hardy mother-*&^%-ers.

2. Human beings are resilient and amazing. We are also fragile mushy creatures. As we were all slowly freezing in our homes, our reptilian brains kicked in and we just sought warmth, however we could get it. Trivial things were forgotten. Keeping ourselves and each other (especially the vulnerable) alive became the priority. It was fascinating and amazing and terrifying.

3. Without access to wifi, many of us were cut off from the world, each other, and any updates or info. For this short time, we experienced what it was to feel forgotten and scared, left to piece together scraps of what was going on. For many of us it was the first glimpse into this daily reality of many, all over the world — being forgotten in the dark.

4. Some people are inherently community-minded. Not enough of us are. I admire those people endlessly, and will strive to be more like them.

5. For example: neighbors who hadn’t had heat in days, who were freezing and hungry and at the end of their ropes, still managed to find the emotional resources to help displaced neighbors whose pipes had burst and whose homes had flooded. And neighbors who still had heat opened their homes to freezing strangers, which is no small thing, especially during a pandemic.

6. People with food allergies and/or autoimmunity simply didn’t make it back in the day, even a few generations ago. Everything I’m able to do hinges on my ongoing access to the tremendous and rare privilege of healthy food. This makes me grateful, but is also daunting and humbling.

7. Piggybacking on #5, the wonderful things I’m able to accomplish and explore in my life are because I am always fed, clean, dry and warm. This feels staggering right now. So many human beings almost never experience being fed, clean, dry and warm at the same time.

8. This was awful, but was over (for most) in a few days, and it’s only a tiny fraction of how much of the planet lives on a daily basis. I will probably never respond to info about disaster relief or humanitarian crises the same way again.

9. This might have been our most profound and intimate chance, from our privileged perch, to peek underneath the constructs of governments, countries, even culture —and recognize that it’s all just people, trying to get fed, clean, dry and warm.

Austin, TX-based writer, illustrator and English professor. She/her.