collateral damage

This is a term that’s being flung about a lot lately, by all sorts of people, for any number of reasons. I am beginning to wonder whether they even understand the gravity of it.

Be that as it may, I think it applies here. Yes the storms are over now. Yes, electricity has mostly been restored, people are mostly back in their homes, clean up is well under way.

But some are not.

There are many people who were in apartment buildings. This is not so strange, except for those whose complexes suffered serious damage and are uninhabitable. And the people cannot return to them. And FEMA will take several weeks to sort this out and compensate them.

What then?

And there is the river.

IMG_0696.JPG  Mouth of the Cape Fear river, Snow’s Cut bridge at the Atlantic Ocean

North Carolina has long been known for tobacco, but another cash industry here is Smithfield, and most of the hog farm pork producers are here. These farms I learn have a way of dealing with hog waste using lagoons. When the river flooded the lagoons were breached.

Our electric company uses coal as a source for generating power. I learned the waste byproduct is deposited in coal-ash ponds. When the Cape Fear river flooded these ponds were breached.

So much more happens than the power of nature in a storm. The contaminants created by humans are our own undoing. The storm came because that’s what storms do. The river flooded because the storm’s rains and tidal surge overwhelmed it. Everything else? Well, that’s because we didn’t plan well enough to protect the river and environment from our own mess. We thought we had things contained, but we did not.

I remember a comic strip years ago, “Pogo” by Walt Kelly. A famous line from it was “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Mr. Kelly expounded on this more extensively–

“Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle. There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us. Forward!” — Walt Kelly, June 1953 **

While we may in fact be our own enemy I like to give benefit of the doubt in thinking most of our self-damage is among our best-laid plans. We thought we had it safe and secure. We found we were mistaken, at a great expense. So we go back to the “drawing board.”

IMG_0703.JPG While I do not know this couple for me their slow, meandering stroll is a redemption.

 

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” –Proverbs 16:9

 

 

**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogo_(comic_strip)#%22We_have_met_the_enemy_and_he_is_us.%22

 

 

 

 

 

 

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resilience

It’s strange. It’s like the trauma of the storm has regenerated spring. I first noticed some petunia seeds I sprinkled on a hanging basket from last March which were profusely blooming all summer long. I brought them in during the storm because they are fragile and they promptly dropped all their blooms and disappeared.  Nothing but black potting soil. Ever the optimist I rehung the basket and watered it a couple of weeks ago just after the storm. Now this

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Then, watering in the front yard several days later I looked up to see the Bradford pear (which isn’t actually fruit bearing at all but an ornamental tree). Most of these trees broke apart in the storm or were irreparably damaged in some way because they are disease- and insect infestation-prone, but mine survived.  This

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in full bloom with new leaves sprouting. One of my favorite small nurseries and plant supply stores explained it this way: the trauma these plants endured made them regenerate with something of a vengeance and those that bloom are doing so for survival, to set seed. My river birch (the tree my elderly neighbor has a personal vendetta against) also is putting out new leaves

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So I have no idea what this means for the fall season. We don’t really get much fall color here because we’re sub-tropic and it doesn’t get that fall cold edge really. But I’ve not seen this before.

Then we have the “normal” fall flowers, goldenrod

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But resilience. We bounce back. We may have a set back but we get our bearings, dig into our resources, get creative, work hard and regain whatever ground may have been lost.

Nature’s way, human nature’s way, too.

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  –Joshua 1:9

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control.”   –2 Timothy 1:7

 

maintenance

Except for the mountains of limbs, sawed pines and hardwood trees, leaves, other debris the part of town I live in is more or less back to normal. County employees went back to work this week, libraries opened, schools will resume October 1, most parks have reopened, power is restored, roads are cleared, stores are open.

So having had basic repairs– roof, fencing –made I looked to normal fall maintenance chores around the house.

There are no leaves on the trees. They all blew off in the storm. I have already raked up what was on the ground, three 40-gallon trash bags. There is a section of rain gutter that got dinged when my neighbor’s tree fell on my garage so I got out the ladder to fix it.

Not a hard fix, but while up there I saw where all the rest of the leaves went and got down off the ladder to get a pair of gloves to clean out the gutters.

IMG_0656.JPG           very few leaves on the trees

This is normally not a difficult job but these houses in this neighborhood are very close together, maybe 15 feet apart, so getting a ladder angled to rest where I can climb up and reach the leaves is not possible in some places.

I am over 60 years old. Getting creative to clean out gutters is no longer the adventure  challenge it once was. One side of the house is far from the house on that side so it was no problem. The other side afforded no possible way to set the ladder against the house except almost vertically. I eyed the root-hardened ground where I’d likely fall and decided against it. The neighbor’s 8-foot privacy fence however had a four-inch wide cap along it which I was able to climb on and reach the leaves. Not optimal conditions but it worked.

And those gutters were full. There was a small tree growing in one spot.

I don’t mind doing small home maintenance jobs: replacing refrigerator gaskets, changing air conditioner filters, repairing doorknobs, installing ceiling fans. Saving money has always been something of a game to me, to see how much I can do at the least expense, but climbing around on ladders 12-15 feet off the ground may be beyond me at this point.

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Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu stretched out on the fresh, green grass in the sun while I climbed up and down. They always stay close by when I get involved in a strange project. I think they know I must need to be watched. Should something happen I have no idea what they’d do about it, but they would at least be there to see it happen.

 

Fortunately this afternoon, nothing happened.

IMG_0657.JPG  a very pretty flower bloomed

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread…”  –Luke 12:27

 

 

 

#capefearstrong

Chain saws, bucket trucks, wood chippers, hammers on roof shingles, semi trailers, disaster relief…. these will be here for a while.

The river is expected to crest sometime this weekend, maybe begin to fall Tuesday. Interstates are still closed, roads have collapsed, dams are failing.

The power of water.

And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, like the wind.

IMG_0645.JPG  Trees appear to cringe against fear of more wind

Recovery is incremental at first… the winds and rains stop, electricity is restored, traffic lights flash, then hold steady, fuel and grocery stores reopen, limited hours, limited persons allowed to shop, gradually reopening to full hours. People venture out more, less afraid… has it really gone… ? Aftershock.

Life returns to a form of normalcy, people eager to complain impatiently about waiting in a check out line rather than humbly, gratefully in a line waiting for ice, water, MREs, tarps.

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Even nature is disoriented, seeking shelter wherever they can, emerging from fallen trees, crushed vegetation, where is home?

Water recedes, surges. the abnormal seems normal until it isn’t and you realize how awful it all really was. How grateful, fortunate you are it was not worse.

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Eventually the detritus of the storm disappears, flatbeds come and take it away. The chainsaws stop, birds sing louder.

Life as we knew it resumes, the same, but so different.

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When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”   __Isaiah 43:2

“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”   –I Kings 19:11, 12

storms of life

It could have been so much worse.

Don’t get me wrong… we’re still in the midst of the thing. We were fortunate in many ways– Florence was a category 1 storm when it made landfall. With threats of becoming a monster cat 5 with winds over 150 miles an hour we were fortunate to experience up to 105 mph winds. Bad enough, but not catastrophic.

The worst of it is the storm is not moving. Or just barely. Like taking a leisurely 2 or 3 mile an hour stroll. But Florence is not only strolling. This storm is still drawing up moisture from the third of the storm that is over the warm Atlantic Ocean and dumping on my area and areas in about a 200-mile radius. And this radius, as the storm weakens, is expanding. There are winds, but nothing like we heard two nights ago. I understand why people describe tornadoes as sounding like freight trains.

My house is maybe 10 miles, give or take from any large water source: the ocean, all the area creeks and the Cape Fear River. The river has flooded its banks into downtown.

Before the storm all ferry service to the barrier islands and outer banks stopped the night before as did our little airport . All bridges into my town closed when the storm winds were 40 mph. Just today the only interstate access here was closed from flooding. Stores are still boarded up, closed. Gas tankers cannot get here to fill up all the stations which emptied the night before the storm.

So there is now no way in or out of here.

Remarkably there have been attempts at looting. Well in advance of this storm it was made very clear that extra law enforcement and national guardsmen would be in areas under mandatory evacuation to protect from looting. So all 6 people who decided to see if they meant it are now in county lock-up.

Good. Disasters like this make even the most formidable vulnerable in ways they could never imagine. The entire state of North Carolina will be inundated with more rain over several days. Projected flooding is predicted to be historic. Everywhere.

The pendulum swings. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Will we now experience extreme drought in the coming months, years?

The disaster response is humbling. The “Cajun Navy”– those guys with outboards from Louisiana that came to so many rescues in Houston and surrounding after Harvey are here. People come out of nowhere with chainsaws to help remove trees (where there are no power lines involved) and open small neighborhood roads. And as soon as roads are passable and the rains come closer to stopping 40,000 linesmen from 17 states are on stand-by to come in and help restore power to over 600,000 homes who are without.

So thank you, anyone who followed this storm, wherever you are, and thought of us at its mercy. Thank you for any prayers, good thoughts or concerns. That is what people need to do anymore.

Just care.

Thank you.

DnDqsKVXcAAv3GQ-1024x683.jpgHurricane Florence, September 14, 2018 Courtesy of NASA https://blogs.nasa.gov/hurricanes/tag/tropical-cyclone-6/

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”     Jeremiah 29:11-13

not searching for Grey Man

When my brother and I were little our family vacationed at a small, out of the way South Carolina beach. Each summer for a week we enjoyed a happy, stressless week with usually the same other families. Three incredible meals, huge breakfasts of eggs, bacon, pancakes, fruit, dinner at midday and supper in evening. The most restful sleep we could have.

At the end of our week a few of the adults would prepare a bonfire around which all the children would sit, wide-eyed listening to the famous story of the Grey Man. As happens with story telling there are many backgrounds to this legend. The one shared with us was of a young woman waiting impatiently for her fiancé who was away at war.

Unbeknownst to her at the time, her fiancé had been killed. Wandering the beaches one early foggy morning she saw in the distance what appeared to be a young man, tattered clothing, slowly lifting his arm to wave, and suddenly vanished into the mist.

Soon after she learned of her beloved’s death, just at the time a hurricane was anticipated. The families left the island and upon returning found all their homes had been demolished, all save the family of the young woman who had seen the apparition. Curtains still hung in the open windows, laundry still on the line.

Just at that moment in the telling of the story, some one of the group clad in a sheet would leap out from the sand dunes, all the children knowing this would happen still shrieked and were chased all over the beach, laughing.

The legend is that anyone who sees the ghost before an impending storm will return to find their property untouched. As I recall this memory one of the news stations is broadcasting the horrific events that happened on this day, seventeen years ago. The attacks on America.

So no, though I  admire the order of the natural world I cling daily to only God. No matter what happens, He is truly the only One who can restore order to chaos.

This day when I remember so much horror that happened for no reason other than abject hatred and utter evil I am thankful to the God of all that is. He gives us strength to rebuild, help others, to restore what was lost. We can’t bring back the innocent lives that many still mourn but we can do all within our power to see this does not happen again. It won’t eliminate evil but we know that no matter what, evil does not, in the end, win.

proxy.duckduckgo.jpg9/11 Memorial, World Trade Center, New York City

See you on the other side.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”   __ James 4:7