Today is the first day of hurricane season and forecasters are predicting a grim season, comparable to the year Katrina struck. In my household, we're already discussing where we'll be taking our 'hurrication' should the need arise. This is a conversation that has become routine for us, despite the fact that I grew up without evacuating once. In fact, I can only remember one hurricane in my youth that did a moderate amount of damage, and that was at least 30 years ago.
But it's a new time, with new rules. During Katrina, members of my family evacuated for the first time in their long lives. They waited until the last moment, took very little with them, and fully anticipated that it would be like any other time - somewhat of a false alarm. Most of my family came back to minimal damage, but other extended family members lost their homes and everything in them. Their houses were insured, they started over, but they lost all the mementos that meant so much to them.
My first evacuation was for Hurricane Gustav a couple of years back, and I remembered the lessons from Katrina survivors - pack up the important stuff, don't forget your recipes and photos, and definitely clean out the refrigerator before you go. It was the first time that I had to really take stock of my possessions and decide what was meaningful on a soul level. (It wasn't the same as deciding what possessions to sell before a cross-country move.) The only rule - everything had to fit in the car.
It took a very long day-and-a-half to secure the house and pack our belongings, and I sifted through everything with a careful eye, as if I would return to nothing. It was a life changing experience, taking stock of each and every thing we had accumulated over our lifetime together. In the end, we were able to distill the essence of our life into a load that fit in the car. Granted, it was packed to the rooftop, but we were able to leave without fretting over what had been left behind. I came back to grit and dirt and the loss of a garden, but it was insignificant. Still, I am ever so grateful for the process. On a self-awareness level, the experience was priceless.
I'm more organized this year. I already have two suitcases packed with important items and an inventory of what we'll take. It's basically the same as it was two years ago, and somehow this brings me comfort, knowing that it's still manageable. There have been some things I've streamlined over the last two years - it motivated me to scan all of my favorite family photos (a smart move for anyone), go digital with my creative resources, and archive as much as possible, including my family recipes.
Hurricane or not, I think that creating an evacuation list is something everyone can benefit from. What's on it - and what's not - just might surprise you. At the very least, you'll know where you stand in relation to what you own, and that can open up an entirely new dialogue with yourself and your family. Here's my evacuation list. What's on yours?