The night before I learned that my literary agent was leaving the agency, I dreamed of waves. Towering frothy gray swells that were overwhelming the barebones concrete building we were sheltering within. I woke up and told my husband: I dreamed of waves. I think change is coming.
Within hours, my inbox pinged with an email from my agent. With two of my manuscripts in her queue, I was excited, thinking we were about to sub one or dive into edits on another. Instead, she was announcing her bittersweet departure.
I am happy for her, and I'm not just saying that. I want for her what she wants for herself. But I should also tell you that after reading it, I had cookie dough for lunch and stared out the windows a lot. As I watched the world outside, the wind picked up, and howled across the valley draw, where mountains on both sides can sometimes create a funnel for air currents. Another gust upturned the patio furniture. Go ahead, I thought to myself. Shake it all up. I knew you were coming, after all.
By the next morning, the wind was gusting out of the south in straight lines at well over 50 mph, the sustained currents hovering at about 30-40mph. I fed our horses, took a minute to shoot a video for TikTok of my wild ass hair in the wilder wind, then looked up at my house to watch the shingles across the peak of the pitch of our +100-year-old farmhouse lift in much the same way as my hair - standing on end. Then the first few strips of shingles flew off the back, pulling other chunks of material with it.
Inside the house, my 6-year-old son was terrified, clutching stuffed kitties to his chest and hiding in the stairwell. My 7-year-old daughter was delighted, even cackling each time another row of shingles sailed off the roof and into the back yard like a damn frisbee. Our golden doodle seemed to feel the same way and would retrieve pieces of the roof and drag them to the gate as if to ask us or the house to throw it for him again. My son cried harder. My 11-year-old was so deep into a book she was reading that she didn't notice at all.
I considered taking my kids elsewhere until the windstorm passed, but downed trees blocked the road out to the east, and power was out down the main corridor through town, including the traffic lights that damn near dot every block. Through a friend, we made contact with a roofer nearby who came out to see if there was anything he could do to secure the remaining roof until the storm passed, but the wind was still too strong, and it would not have been safe for him to climb up even to assess the damage. He left me with the reassurance that even with so many shingles living out their wildflower dreams in my yard, the tar cloth customarily adhered beneath the layer of shingles would prevent any water damage until the wind quit, and it wasn't raining that hard. Yet.
We hunkered down on the ground floor of the house and stayed away from the big picture windows that let in incredible amounts of light in every room. By nightfall, pouring rain replaced the violent wind, and we could all breathe a little easier. I went upstairs to grab my glasses from my bedroom and found water dripping from the screw heads in the ceiling vents and making dark spots on the carpet where it'd been soaking through.
It is dark and raining. I am terrified of heights and my husband, a surgeon, is leery of anything that might up the risk for a broken hand - plus he'd had a patient die from a fall off a second story roof two weeks prior, so that was fresh in his mind. But greater was his odd, lifelong fear of water damage (past life trauma, maybe?) and so, with no other option, we rounded up a ladder, every piece of scrap wood light enough to carry up a roof, my truck so I could stand in the back of it and heave things over my head, clamps, and the biggest tarp we could find.
By the time we were done, we were soaking wet and very tired. My eyes felt coated in shingle grit from passing boards up and over the edge of the roof, and the seat of my husband's jeans were grown and green from sliding up and down the steep, slick pitch on his butt as he clung to a pop-out window and used an old satellite dish for a "steadier" hold. When we went inside, our kids were huddled on the stairs with one of our dogs - a brindle Pitbull named Sura, who is arguably the nanny of our children, and all of them were now teary. The prospect of their parents getting hurt had been far scarier than the windstorm that had ripped off a chunk of our roof, toppled structures, trees, and downed power lines all over town. Further, our 11-year-old had been convinced her father would plummet to his death and my 6-year-old was convinced while we were on the roof, the house would fill with water and sweep us all away that it might still could - and I realize we let him watch Jumanji at *way* too young an age.
So, my husband turned around and showed him his soiled pants. "I was so scared up there I pooped myself," he said, and all was suddenly right in our little, tarp-covered world.
I slept light that night, waiting to inevitably hear the wind pick up again and rip the boards and tarp from the roof, the plunk of new drips in the trash cans strategically placed around the room. But morning came and the tarp had held.
It's funny how hopes can change on a dime, how gratitude is often there to find after a storm - literal or otherwise. For now, I am hoping our haphazard patch can stymie more water damage until Monday, through two days and a dicey weather forecast, when the insurance adjuster and contractor will decide if the roof is in need of just a repair or if it's a tear down and start from scratch situation.
In the case of this career setback of losing an agent between rounds of submission, i am desperate for a patch, a way to get back to what I "had" as quickly and seamlessly as possible. But for the roof, which had seen better days well before the storm, I'm hoping they'll decide it needs a total replacement - a fresh start. Even if it takes longer, makes a bigger mess, requires a bigger investment on our part, and might possibly expose other problems beneath the forest green cover of this 112-year-old farmhouse we call home.
Maybe there's something to letting go and starting all the way over that might be at least a little appealing after all.