Beryl in Jamaica, the colour of the sea

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The following article was originally published by Global Voices contributor Emma Lewis on Substack. An edited version is republished here with permission.

A Beryl is a rather lovely translucent mineral, sometimes green, sometimes blue, sometimes gold or pink.

Beryl is an old-fashioned English girl’s name, after the gemstone mentioned above. The name’s origin is apparently from the Greek word “beryllos,” which means “colour of the sea.” All rather beautiful.

Beryl is also the name of the second storm in the 2024 hurricane season.

The waiting for a hurricane is always difficult. (Please see my friend Diana McCaulay’s perfect description, and her thoughts on where all this hell is coming from, here.) Husband and I were so weighed down with COVID (acquired during our travels, apparently) and so utterly exhausted that this period was a bit of a blur.

The Waiting For A Hurricane Time is usually a day or two of acute awareness, doubts and uncertainty, peering at hurricane maps and “cones” of the storm’s expected track produced by the National Hurricane Center in Florida; government officials speaking about preparedness, lists of shelters and emergency numbers — our Prime Minister Andrew Holness in his stern “Dunkirk voice” when it became evident that Beryl was going to hit us one way or the other — and debating whether to venture out into the frenzy of pre-storm grocery shopping that takes place in the relatively well-off areas of town. I hear there were fights over loaves of bread, as soon as they appeared on the shelves.

During Beryl, we were grateful for hurricane straps on our roof. The dogs huddled on the verandah. The trees in our yard tossed and strained in the wind, but lost no branches, just a few untidy twigs and leaves. Our last Bombay mangoes tumbled down from the top of the tree and were well received. We were thankful not to lose power or water, although we expected to.

The most painful part for the island, in general, is after the storm. It has become increasingly obvious that enormous destruction has taken place in several parts of the country. We comfortable city folks had very little to complain about. Moreover, soon after, we had another wave of rain, which swelled flooded areas even further and resulted in the collapse of bridges and roads.

Today we had sunshine for the first time. And for those who think hurricanes are exciting, interesting and fascinating (Beryl broke several records), may I remind you that for those who are in the midst of such storms — they are not. They are exhausting, tedious, often dangerous, and distressing. They strain your endurance to the limit. Depression kicks in for many humans, after a bad storm.

You are tired, before, during and after. Just tired. My condolences to those who have lost loved ones (an elderly woman was swept away during the storm, and her body found today). And my sympathies to those who have to pick up the pieces — physical, mental and spiritual. May help come soon.

Meanwhile, the hurricane season has only just begun; after all, “B” is just the second letter in the alphabet. We are already tired, and sad. Wish us luck, going forward … we may need it.

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