build back smarter

The United States is having a rough couple of weeks on the hurricane front. First, Fiona caused major damage in Puerto Rico, and now, Ian has cut a huge swath of destruction across Florida and is making a second landfall in South Carolina.

There have been massive flooding, wind damage, and major infrastructure impacts, including roads, bridges, and electrical, water, and communication systems. Sadly, there have also been injuries and deaths attributed to the storms and their aftermath.

Aid is being rendered by governments at all levels, by utilities, by charitable organizations, and by volunteers.

After the immediate emergency needs are met, attention will turn to rebuilding.

The first question to ask is “Should we?” There are places where the answer may be “No.” I’m thinking about places like barrier islands and directly on shorelines that are geologically unsuitable, being vulnerable to both storms and sea level rise. Further, the sand that characterizes these areas is meant to move and their natural structure serves to help protect inland areas from the worst of the storm surge and winds. Building there is asking for trouble and re-building there is setting up for losses in the future. With stronger and more frequent storms forecast due to global warming, it may be wisest at this point for government and insurers to buy out property owners in these vulnerable places so that homes and businesses can move to safer locations inland.

In other places, rebuilding may be possible but with much stricter requirements. For example, buildings can be elevated so that flood water can rise beneath them without damaging living space. Structures can be designed to be wind-resistant so roofs don’t blow off during storms. Mobile homes, unless they really are mobile, i.e. on wheels so they can be easily relocated away from danger, should not be allowed at all in storm zones.

It’s vital to rebuild infrastructure with resilience in mind. Five years ago, hurricane Maria destroyed the power grid in Puerto Rico. It was still fragile when Fiona hit but locations that had switched to solar power with battery backup were able to keep their power on. Tropical coastlines are great places for solar power and also for offshore wind, which could have the added benefit of reducing wind speeds from storms.

These changes won’t be easy but they are necessary. The alternative is to continue the cycle of destruction and expensive rebuilding over and over again.

Some of you may be thinking that I don’t understand the difficulty and trauma of leaving a beloved location instead of trying to rebuild there, but I have seen it up close in my town. After the last two record floods of the Susquehanna in 2006 and 2011, many people here faced the decision to rebuild in the same place, perhaps with elevation, or move elsewhere. If people took buyouts, the sites of their former homes were converted to greenspace. There are two neighborhoods near me that are dotted with these lots that used to be homes and yards.

My family lives with the realization that our home, on which we carry flood insurance even though we are not technically in a flood zone, could be impacted in the next record flood. (We are just a few blocks from places that flooded last time.) Depending on the damage incurred, we could be faced with the same decision to take a buyout or repair and elevate our home. It’s painful to think about and I don’t know which we’d choose.

We’ve been here for over 35 years. It would be hard to leave the neighborhood. I do know, though, that we wouldn’t ignore reality/risks and try to rebuild as we are now.

I opt for safety over sentiment.

One-Liner Wednesday: truth

However much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing.

George Orwell

Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/28/one-liner-wednesday-is-it-wednesday/

A fairy tale wedding


A few days ago, spouse B, daughter T, and I attended the wedding of M and S. M is B’s and my niece and is the cousin closest in age to T.

M is also a big fan of Disney World. S chose to propose to M there and M planned their wedding and reception with a Cinderella theme, including the napkin above. There were castles and glass slippers and golden coaches incorporated into decorations, dancing into the night, a beautiful gown with yards of tulle.

Many echoes of a classic fairy tale.

But M and S don’t have an ordinary life. M is nurse with special training in emergency medicine who currently serves as a flight nurse, transporting critically ill or injured people to medical centers that can give them the best care possible. S is a state trooper, doing his best to keep people safe and assist them in emergencies.

They both do extraordinary things on a regular basis.

They also are facing an extraordinary challenge. Early in their courtship, M developed a serious medical issue but S stayed by her side, even when M tried to break up with him in order to protect him.

The strength of their bond in the face of adversity brought more than the usual number of tears at the wedding and during the toasts at the reception, where even the especially-stoic state troopers choked up over M and S’s love story.

Even at a fairy tale wedding, there are no guarantees of how long the “ever after” will be.

M and S showed us, though, that their love is strong and eternal, whatever obstacles are thrown in their path.

One-Liner Wednesday: metaphor

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

Orson Scott Card

Please join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/21/one-liner-wednesday-dragons-and-fairy-tales/

a new sign

On Saturday, September 17, 2022, I went back to my hometown, Monroe, Massachusetts, for their bicentennial celebration. There will eventually be a proper post about the fun and meaningful day I had there but I wanted to give a little shout-out today.

These welcome signs are new. This is the one at the Massachusetts/Vermont state line about half a mile from where our house was back in the day.

SoCS: ring

I’ve been out all day at the bicentennial of my hometown so this will be a short SoCS post.

When I saw that Linda’s prompt was ring, what came to mind was the poem I wrote about taking off my father’s wedding ring after he died. The first anniversary of his death was Wednesday. The poem was published this spring by Wilderness House Literary Review here.
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Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/16/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-17-2022/

One-Liner Wednesday: Paco memorial

Paco and an Irish rainbow

Remembering my father on the first anniversary of his death.
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/14/one-liner-wednesday-he-was-a-fun-guy/

Two poems in RAR!

I’m pleased to announce that I have two new poems published in the Fall-Winter issue of Rat’s Ass Review! (In case you are wondering about the somewhat unusual name, read the longer version of their submission guidelines, which is one of the most informative, honest, and entertaining I’ve ever encountered.) Many thanks to current editor Roderick Bates for choosing my work for inclusion in this issue.

There are 61 contributing poets plus cover art, so there’s lots to enjoy! Contributors are arranged alphabetically, so you will find my poems listed under Joanne Corey. Clicking on any poet’s surname takes you to their bio in the last section.

The inspiration for my first poem “The Banned Bookmobile” is a project under development at WordPlace, the Southern Tier Literary Center at the Bundy Museum, Binghamton, NY. J. Barrett Wolf, director of Wordplace, is planning to assemble a collection of banned/challenged books in a bus that can travel about to present programs on the First Amendment, censorship, and other topics. (Editor Rick Bates helpfully made the title of the poem a link to the web page for the project.)

For those of you who may not be familiar, in rural/underserved communities, it was common to have a bookmobile visit several times a year, giving schoolchildren and adults the chance to borrow a wider range of books than were available in town. I remember the excitement in my rural New England town of 200 when the bookmobile visited. Although I loved our town library, it was very small and the bookmobile offered many more options.

My poem references several books/series that have been banned from various schools or libraries in the United States, including And Tango Makes Three, the Harry Potter series, The Bluest Eye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Video Chat with our 95-year-old Father” was written in early 2021, shortly after Paco had moved into the assisted living unit of his senior community. Due to pandemic restrictions, my sisters and I weren’t allowed to visit his place, even though I lived nearby. The staff would set up a video session with their iPad and then leave to attend to other duties. Unfortunately, Paco had difficulty grasping the situation and the technology involved.

As always, comments are welcome!

9!

Today is my ninth blogaversary! Blogoversary? The spelling of made-up words seems a bit fluid…

This is my 1,682nd post. There have been 6,458 comments, 56,348 views, and 31,286 visitors from 126 countries and territories. There are 1,572 followers via WordPress with another couple hundred by email, twitter, and Facebook, with, I’m sure, a bit of overlap.

It seems like so many added up that way, but Top of JC’s Mind is still a small blog, averaging about 20 views a day. I remain grateful for all my visitors and followers. [Time for my usual disclaimer: I rarely look at my stats and don’t do much to actively gain views. In the crush of real life, I decided to devote my blogging time to writing posts and answering comments, so I don’t do the kinds of outreach needed to build up a large readership.]

I’m thankful to still be actively blogging at all. It seems that many bloggers start out but don’t continue for this many years or only post a few times a year.

Not that I post on a regular schedule but I’ve made it to 1,682 posts, so I do manage to say things!

I’ve been happy with my choice to be an eclectic blog. I know some of you visit for the poetry posts or for the family stories. Others might favor my political posts or pandemic posts or environmental posts. Some visit via Linda G. Hill‘s One-Liner Wednesdays or Stream of Consciousness Saturdays series. Some seem to arrive via searches of various sorts, which I find fascinating.

I know now that there are quite a few other eclectic blogs and I love knowing that there are so many of us rambling on about whatever is “top of mind” at the moment.

So, on to Year 10! Hope to see you checking in from time to time.

With thanks,
Joanne

SoCS: silent letters

Silent letters are one of the difficulties in learning written English.

There are a lot of them! (There are a lot of other weird features to spelling in English, too. I pity anyone having to learn it as a second, third, or fourth language.)

I realize other languages have them, too. I never studied French but occasionally have to sing in it. I’m always having to cross out letters that aren’t pronounced.

The first opportunity I had to study a second language was in high school. I chose Italian for a number of reasons. My mom’s grandparents spoke it, although in dialect which is not what you learn in school. Also, Italian is used extensively in music markings. In the US, Latin is sung using Italianate pronunciation and I often have call to sing in Latin.

Learning to spell and pronounce words in Italian is much more straightforward than in English. There are almost no silent letters. H is the letter that is sometimes silent and sometimes a signifier of a change to another consonant sound. Once you learn the pure vowel sounds and a few little rules, it is very easy to read a text in Italian. You might not know what you are saying, but it will sound beautiful!
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “a word with a silent letter.” We could write about it or about silent letters in general. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/09/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-10-2022/

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