An Emerald Isle resident, our Sam Bland weathered Hurricane Florence, which brought destruction to the community but also brought out the best of those who call it home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
Hurricane 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
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.
9/11 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
I don’t believe in that. When I was a little girl filled with mythical romantic fairy tales I did. I’m not jaded. We have turns of events in life that surprise us, none more humbling than as the result of things we contrived ourselves that failed. Or those that became real.
Maybe that’s why I cling to nature. It has its own rhythm. What happens there always has a reason. So even though this might not be their 7th year we have an abundance of newly hatched cicadas. Now. Not from May or June, now.
They crawl up out of the earth where the previous generation laid eggs and they grew into grubs. They crawl up tree trunks where they split their skins and emerge, these beautiful googly-eyed insects 1-2 inches long and make a deafening song until they become ant fodder at their life’s end.
These abandoned exoskeletons are stuck all over different trees. They are not attractive larva. You seldom see them before they are empty shells. But this is their metamorphosis. Probably not painful so they are not reluctant to go through this process, unlike people who resist change almost constantly. Until at least a certain age where we have either built up enough strength and resilience to survive it, with senses of humor, or indifference that hardens and encases us like the abandoned shells the katydids leave.
Caterpillars are the same. I can’t imagine snuggling into a cocoon is anything uncomfortable. But I wonder, are the caterpillars awake when they begin and complete their beautiful transformation to a butterfly?
another swallowtail butterfly finishing off a stem of fennel
One of my favorite places to volunteer is a public garden here. It is 7 acres on property that at one time was a private elementary school. Several different sorts of gardens have been developed: native plants, veterans memorial, forest, herb and kitchen, children’s, rain gardens and several others. Each week stalwart souls gather in unimaginable heat and humidity to sweat among the weeds and flowers for 2-3 hours doing various chores. One of my favorites is weeding. There is something so gratifying about pulling a clump of nut sedge or chamberbitter or smilax root and leaving loose rich soil for the phlox, cone flowers, maypops and others. The garden spiders start quite small, and late in the summer become like this that I straightened from pulling weeds to see
harmless garden spider unless you are a fly
What I guess I marvel most at is that there are few anomalies in nature. Oak trees grow acorns, not cherries. Spiders eat flies, moths and other insects. Each living thing in the natural world has its own purpose and lives to fulfill it. But then there are no freedoms either. They do what they do because it is what they were created to do. We people were given freedom. Free will. A brain that we use to function, or allow to confuse us .
And then there are storms. Four actually, in the Atlantic right now. Each one is steered and guided by so many factors, the temperature of the ocean, wind and water currents, high or low pressure systems in the atmosphere. Like this one, named Florence
(https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/?#wcontents)Natl Hurricane Ctr
This may not have my little NC coastal town’s name on it but we are in the “cone of possibility”. Not strange. This time of year is the peak season for these storms. And we are told how and when to prepare in case it comes too close. There are no hurricane shelters here because no place will be safe.
I lived in different places in Florida from 2004-2006, 2005 being the year Katrina hit New Orleans and there were so many named storms that year they exhausted the alphabet and began over with AA, BB, CC. The season went long into December.
So last year was not a good year, either, with Harvey, Irma, Maria. I guess this year is catching up from having no storms in August. Maybe it’s better to get them all over with in one week.
Assuming that is, that we will.
So while we batten down the hatches against whatever may or may not come, enjoy the last drops of summer. Notice the turning of the leaves. The bite in the air that is a harbinger of Autumn.
I love trees. Maybe ever since my grandmother recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees” when I was a little girl. There are simply too many reasons to love trees… they give shade, they are lovely to look at, they offer shelter from storms for birds and small animals, birds nest in their branches, they provide food for insects which provides food for birds, they respire and cool the air and maybe most importantly they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Trees are kind of essential to survival of many species.
So when my neighbor, whom I had not met after nearly a year, rang my doorbell I had no idea what I was in for.
Let me digress for a moment… I live alone (well, with 2 rescue dogs, Lily and Lulu) and am very happy this way. My son is grown and off on his own successful life and our paths cross in the occasional text, phone call, birthday. I see my brother’s family once or twice a year. I have a few friends with whom I stay in touch, get together with for coffee, lunch, and I do some volunteer work. So otherwise I am completely unobtrusive. Invisible almost. Well, except for this blog and walking all over, I try to stay out of other people’s way. You know, things are so busy and fast-paced now. Not so much that I can’t keep up… well maybe I can’t but the truth is I don’t want to anymore, I’ve done that.
So people basically know I live here but that’s about it.
Until this neighbor.
At the time I had no idea the history here. He bought his house with his wife 20 years ago when the house was built. Evidently the person who bought the house I live in also loved trees. And planted 3 river birch trees. This is a lovely tree with peeling, papery bark and lush foliage. This foliage grew quickly over my neighbor’s garage. He said he’d pleaded with the initial homeowner to not plant the trees where he did but was ignored. So the enmity for these trees goes way back. At the time of our encounter I did not know this. I only saw an angry gentleman, personally angry with me over this tree that I inherited. When I did ultimately get the whole story out of him I learned the subsequent 2 or 3 residents up to me had ignored him as well. I explained what I knew: that he could cut any portion of this tree that hung over his property, but that I would really like the tree to live. I asked that he please let me know when someone would be cutting the tree. That is where we left it.
Nothing happened for weeks.
One day another knock at my door. The landscaper is explaining he is there to trim the tree. But my neighbor was not at home. I called him. Learned he is at hospital with his wife and no, he now has someone different in mind to cut the tree, do not allow the people who are there to do anything. I asked him to speak to them himself and handed over the phone.
A few weeks later a strange gentleman is at my door. Says he is the cousin of my neighbor and will be cutting the tree. I ask if my neighbor is there? No. So now I realize I will also be paying for this. In addition, I found myself bracing their rickety ladder and praying at the bottom that nobody fall off my neighbor’s garage roof. They cut the offending limbs. The tree is, for the most part, still all there and everybody except my wallet is happy.
My neighbor’s wife returned home, some better. A week or two later, on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon I hear chainsaws, very nearby. I look out my back window and see a large limb, trembling precariously over my newly planted shrubs and plants. I ran outside, too late to stop anything but in time to watch the limb fall with a sickening thud on my small garden. To make matters worse one of the men started yanking on the sawed off end of the limb tearing up my plants in the process. Uncharacteristically I started yelling for him to stop. Either he did not hear or in his fervor to remove the offending limb simply chose to ignore me so I grabbed the branches on my side and, finally realizing I was the reason the limb was stuck he stopped pulling. So I explained how I would heave the limb over the fence and try to salvage my plants.
I stayed on my porch the rest of the afternoon until they finished hacking at trees lining the perimeter of my neighbor’s yard.
A few days later I joined my family for a week’s vacation at the beach, wondering occasionally what I would find left of my trees when I returned. I found them just as I had left them, however my neighbor’s wife had taken seriously ill this time. It turned out she did not recover and passed away a few days ago.
So I learned something very important in all of this. When someone comes at you with anger disproportionate to whatever it is they are complaining about there is likely a backstory. In my neighbor’s case it was 20 years of being ignored by residents of this house and, more recently an emotionally upending roller coaster ride with his wife’s sudden and dramatic illness. While I feared he hated me because of a long history with these trees it actually had nothing to do with me at all.
You just never know.
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
This must be because they can do what we normally did ourselves– keep calendars, address books, camera, small libraries, maps, driving directions, and they can even ping to be found if misplaced.
Then you add things.
I love birds so I have an app from Audubon that gives information about all the birds, their songs, habits, areas and migration. I put a Bible app, a star chart, an app for my library and the weather.
This was why I put having one of these off for so long. Initially cell phones in my life were for emergencies. No one even knew I had one. With the disappearance of phone booths if I had car trouble how would I call anybody?
But the lure was too great. And they are pretty handy. Until they completely interfere with your life and sanity.
I first became obsessed with the health app, being a walker of my dogs and self. Now I have to keep this phone with me at all times to count each step I take.. And I found every time I pushed the steps I took this phone increased my daily average. So now I have to keep up with the phone.
But the most recent distraction is a game my sister-in-law and niece play. This was something I was absolutely sure would not get me hooked.
I was wrong.
It is a little game, free, called “Word Cookies”. I love words. I only had 2 years of Latin but being a reader I love learning new words. That’s all this game does. It has many levels, modeled after chef names and has levels within them named for foods. Within that there are 20 levels where you’re given a scrambled word, anywhere from 6-8 letters and you have to find all the words within this word as well as unscramble the main word.
I cannot stop this thing.
I never knew I could be so caught up in any game. Along with figuring out the words you collect coins for different tests and games. The coins can be used if you get stumped. The problem with this for me is I easily become frustrated when a simple word is hidden so well I cannot see it, so I use a coin, then berate myself for having wasted the coin for “into” or “ion”. I am not frugal here. Everywhere else in my life I am very careful.
Maybe this can be a test for me to learn better self-control by limiting the amount of time I play this game. Or patience, waiting until the word I cannot find becomes evident.
Either way I can’t let this thing run my life.
And it just added 700 more levels. At that rate I probably won’t live long enough to finish them all.
“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” –Theophrastus