March 10, 2007

This is a reaction paper my mother wrote for a biographical writing class she took at a local community college 17 years ago. While visiting her last week, I came across several of her papers, and decided to transcribe them for the purpose of sharing with the family. Here is the first.

9/2/90 “HURRICANE” Fay Schulmeister

Learning Log

I enjoyed the author’s economical use of language, which nevertheless gave vivid descriptions of the passage of the hurricane. He also managed to reveal his personality. I got the impression of a sturdy, practical person and a perfectionist. I admired his gut instinct to leap to what he saw needed to be done. I appreciated his recognition of the forces of nature, to be accepted and dealt with.

The description of the onslaught of the hurricane, and its passage, reminded me vividly of hurricanes experienced in Jamaica In my youth, although my experiences were inland. One particular occasion I recall particularly.

We were a large family, of three generations, living in a five-storey house built of stone, stucco and wood, with many windows, jalousied walls, and doors. At the warning everyone sprang into action, through long practice knowing exactly what to do. Doors, windows and jalousies had to be battened. Storm lanterns were gathered, cleaned and wicks trimmed, then filled with oil. Matches were put to hand. The estate workers and house servants waited it out in the stone-enclosed first storey. The family gathered on the second floor.

We felt the changing atmospheric pressure, saw the lowering black clouds, heard the light wind and rain. Then, all at once, came the impact of raging winds hurling what seemed like leaden sheets of rain against the house. There were sounds of creaking wood, of tree branches snapping and being blown against the house. We wondered if the roof would hold – one crack and the wind would roar in and lift it of. It was awe-inspiring to watch tall coconut trees whipped almost to the ground, and not breaking.

Then came the threatening silence of the eye. We braced ourselves. Suddenly, with unimaginable viciousness, winds and rain raged, seemingly from every direction.

After several hours all was quiet. We were thankful the roof held, and set about unbattening doors and windows. No one had been hurt, our house had withstood damage, and soon there was a joyful chattering as we all exchanged observations.

I was impressed by the author’s use of unusual verbs and similes to convey the impact of the rage of the elements; for example “The wind …. Ripped the water like a black sheet. It hammered like a fist.” I also remarked his winding down to normalcy, with his whiskey, and his return to peaceful placidity.

(Instructor’s note: “Do you think he was right to cut the ropes on the other boats? I enjoyed your description of the hurricane you experienced. (+) )

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