In her memoir, Paris France, Gertrude Stein claimed: “Writers have two countries. The one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic. It is not real but it is really there.”
I’d say this is true for not only writers, but for all of us as we approach each new day.
We have a romanticized anticipation in our mind’s eye of how we want things to unfold. But something as simple – or savage – as weather can wrench us back to the real.
Here in my Vieques paradise last week, whatever romantic plans islanders had were brought up short by warnings of the imminent arrival of Tropical Storm Chantal.
The usual preparations got under way. We stowed the outdoor furniture … filled bottles with drinking water and buckets with flushing water … queued up in long lines at the island’s two gas stations (which are across the street from each other).
Leonard Bernstein was talking about Puerto Rico when he wrote The West Side Story lyrics, “ … always the hurricanes blowing.”
The Spanish word for hurricane is tormenta.
Anyone who says they're not afraid of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both, says Anderson Cooper.
This is why, when I built my Casa Cascadas bed-and-breakfast on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, I commissioned Architect John Hix.
John’s been a presence in Vieques for more than two decades and has learned to keep his eye on the real, even as he designs the magnificent and the minimalist.
So he builds houses that are completely concrete and without glass, with steel doors that roll down to envelop occupants against what Rudyard Kipling called “crazy-eyed hurricanes.”
Casa Cascadas, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Taking the vagaries of weather into account – and having a “weather plan” in place – also is a principle of event planning.
In my days of planning events for corporations that ranged from Hitachi and Humana to IBM and Siemens, I grappled with a good share of bad weather.
The annual Christmas parties I produced for IBM employees unfailingly fell on the day of the winter’s first major snowstorm.
Recognition events I put on for Siemens’ top performers seemed cursed: four days of rain during an event in Palm Beach … rain in the desert during an event in Scottsdale … a snow storm that delayed travelers to an event in the Florida keys.
At IBM, I witnessed 10 inches of rain on what we referred to as “turnover day” -- 1,000 employees trying to depart New Orleans after the first of two back-to-back recognition event sessions as another 1,000 tried to fly in for the second.
There is a life lesson to be learned from all this -- which explains the counter-intuitive action naval captains take when they leave the supposed safety of port for the open sea in anticipation of a hurricane.
To quote the nineteenth-century British cleric and aphorist, Charles Caleb Colton: “The sailor that foresees a hurricane stands out to sea and encounters a storm in order to avoid a shipwreck.”
In my next blog: The Lady of the Dunes