When my friend Holly puts a flute to her lips, she transports people from the cares of daily life to realms of joy, spirit, peace. I met Holly in San Francisco in the late 1970s. She was in a little band that played in coffeehouses. I wrote songs in my room, rarely performing them in public. But when Holly brought her harmonies and counterpoints to my melodies and chords, the effect was magical. Fond memories of our collaborations always brighten my spirits.
Holly also hails from Oklahoma. In May, when the state was struck by tornados, she posted some of her thoughts about the devastation on her Facebook page. I asked her whether she could expand her post a bit so I could share it on my blog. She kindly obliged.
The Unquenchable Okie Spirit
By Holly Whitman
In the wake of the terrible tornados that struck Moore and the surrounding area on May 19 and 20, 2013, I have to admit I am so proud of the Oklahoma can-do spirit in cleaning up and rebuilding. It was stunning to learn yet another, even more terrible twister struck again less than two weeks later, on May 31; some folks had to endure the terror all over again and still they carry on.
There is an amazing resilience in Okies born of challenges like the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, tornados year in and year out, wind storms, ice storms, floods, and even earthquakes. The way these Okies are tackling the aftermath of those tornados – looking out for neighbors, friends, and family – is exactly what I’d expect from residents of my home state. It is the spirit that I grew up with and was surrounded by all of my life. No hand-wringing about who will fix it or waiting for FEMA or promised government aid that may take months, if ever, to come.
Even if and when government aid does come through, many Okies are just way too proud to accept it. They will have fixed it all long before any aid arrives. Very few Okies have availed themselves of public shelters, opting to stay with friends and family instead. Centers that have collected items to give to those whose homes were devastated in the storm are brimming with unclaimed donations as Okies find their own way through this challenge, too busy to go seeking handouts, deserving as they are.
Looking out for each other with a spirit of genuine, open friendliness and helpfulness are familiar Okie traits, so none of this is surprising to me. I love it.
You go, Oklahoma! You rock!
Holly Whitman lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona, with her husband, Craig, their son, Sean, and their two pugs, Willis and Teddy. Holly is employed as a counselor and therapeutic home specialist supervising providers who foster very difficult children in their homes. A former columnist for the Sierra Vista News, she is also an editor, as well as a musician who has worked in a variety of venues over many years. Currently, she plays jazz flute with Nancy Weaver’s Swing Band, and is a member of the Sierra Vista Community Band. Previously, she was a music teacher and the owner of a small cleaning business.
Both photos by Save the Children