rain

Maybe having brushes with 3 tropical storms and a tropical system, but I cannot remember a year that I have seen so much just general rainfall.

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I do not watch news programs, nor do I subscribe to the local newspaper. So I have no idea what the cumulative rainfall is. It does not really matter. I live in a coastal town so mostly the ground is sand. We have trees so we have leaves and pine needles that fall, decompose and form a thin layer of topsoil. Subdivisions and developments truck in soil to make lawns, landscape crews mulch at least once a year. So not actually on the beachfront there is soil. Not rich, it’s sandy, but soil.

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Still, the rain drains and soaks into the ground within an hour. Not much standing water so thankfully some areas have less mosquitoes. But the area where my neighborhood is was once a watershed.

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Since we are also within 10 miles of the Cape Fear river everything from here drains there.

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I have way overplanted my backyard. In maybe 20 x 80 feet I have three fig trees, two Althea, two hydrangea, a gardenia, two (baby) paw paw trees, a Daphne, beautyberry bush, pussywillows, tansy, 3 lemongrass, asiatic lilies, penstemon, wisteria, passiflora, angel trumpet, old man’s beard, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, iris, daylilies, Black-eyed Susan, echinacea, mint, rosemary, iron weed, elderberry, star anise, Carolina allspice, Vitex, clethra, daisies, firecracker flower and invasive monarda. It’s really hard to walk around back there. I have a few pots with herbs, tomato plants and some okra.

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I have seen two rainbows this week. One a few days ago and one this morning. Because they are a promise, seeing them always makes me cry which is strange. Gratitude I guess. Relief maybe.

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Because it is July, and the rain, most plants are loaded with blooms, and bees and butterflies. I have often wondered where do they go when it rains.

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Wherever it is, they always reappear when the sun comes out and the flowers dry. And the spiders. Especially the ones on the water spout.

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intentions

For years every summer from when my brother and I were very small my family and I transformed our lives in one week at a small South Carolina beach town. Our parents, away from work and the daily demands of life were relaxed and actually fun to be with. Trading comforts like air-conditioning for ceiling fans we ate basic southern food, played in the ocean and sought interesting shells. Occasionally a pod of porpoises swam by as we sat transfixed on the porch. Idyllic, undemanding, peaceful.

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Even before reading Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us I have always loved the ocean. It’s mysterious, moody and can be, like me, quite dramatic. So when I retired, moving to within minutes of the beach was a dream come true.

Except hurricanes.

Since this remarkable viral plague paralyzed the world I am surfing Zillow almost daily. I have convinced myself that living in the mountains will be my best option. Yes, ice storms. Yes, frozen pipes. I have yet to make my pros and cons list for living both places. I tend to be impulsive. This is a bad trait when considering something like moving house. Since 2003 for instance I have moved 7 times. Three different states. Four of those moves were for work. That is a lot of boxes and bubble wrap. So this one (if there is one) I hope will be the last.

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What made this hard is knowing I will be a 6-hour drive from the ocean. And one of the houses I looked at boasted a “concrete-insulated cellar of bomb shelter quality convenient for safety from tornadoes”.

So maybe hurricanes, though terrible, can be withstood.

 

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beauty

Some things are universal in their beauty. Then there is beauty that is purely subjective. As Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1741, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.”

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Isn’t this true? Mysteries, complicated things, hard work, puzzles, riddles we tend to avoid. Well, some of us. Many are confident and up to great challenges. Some are spurred on by nobility and justice. Some stand and fight for truth. But we all have something we find as beauty.

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Some find beauty in terrible storms. Swirling dark clouds illuminated by jagged, blinding flashes of lightning. Crashing rumbles of pounding thunder. Chaotic whipping winds. The thrill of natural fear that exists larger than controllable events.

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And calm. Serene peace. Quiet so profound it has a presence. Pervasive and soothing.

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A season of sleep. Rest. Recollection of strength. Deepening roots. Restoration of life.

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images.pnggeniusquotes.org

 

 

vicious to vicTORious

Three letters inserted in a word that means spiteful, malicious, hateful… tor. It’s not a much-used word. These 3 little letters, meaning “a high rock, a pile of stones” (Oxford English Dictionary) change the basest attitude to triumph.

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I recently read a devotion by author Lysa Terkeurst about the devil. He does all he can to distract, delude, dissuade, discourage, divert me off track. He wants to make me sad, angry, self-pitying, ungrateful, hopeless, discouraged. And sometimes he is almost successful. The tears he covets are cleansing, not destructive. The more he produces frustrated tears, the more washed my soul. He never wins.

Because of my Rock.

Dorian, as destructive as it was to many places did very little damage to my area. But it did not miss me. Maybe the damage began with last year’s storms and became evident this year. I am among those now waiting for insurance companies, adjusters, appraisers to give me a final word about the roof. But the Rock in my life is my steady, strong anchor. Not a stumbling block. This Rock keeps me on course, gives me hope, strength and encouragement.

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So though repairs are largely a frustrating plan-and-wait, at the mercy of other people and their schedules I cling to the Rock.

No matter how capricious life is, He never leaves.

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(pinterest.com)

He puts His power in me through my faith in Him.

 

 

 

preparation

Before Dorian blew by nobody knew what it would be like. We watched horrified as it sat over the Bahamas with high screaming winds and drowning storm surge and rain. We saw it cruelly inch away from the little archipelago toward the east coast. Until it had passed the North Carolina shores it took its sweet time moving by. I don’t think I have ever been through a storm during the daytime. They come at night when sounds are amplified by the dark.

A few days before we began preparing for it– brought bird feeders in, overturned bird baths, moved furniture, I noticed the milkweed had almost been eaten to nubs, even managed to get a picture of the monarch caterpillars I have so eagerly awaited.

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I have watched swallowtail caterpillars gorge on fennel almost all summer, and there were one or two still munching away

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But only more recently did I notice the Gulf fritillaries. I have planted passionflowers year after year and had no luck. They just would not grow. So a neighbor who was moving offered a trellis which I gratefully accepted and planted what I decided would be my last attempt at the maypop. It grew and attracted its companion caterpillar

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So I wondered, did these survive and move on to make their cocoons?

There are still a few butterflies even though it is late in the year for them to be laying eggs. A fritillary (not my picture)

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And swallowtail

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and monarch

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An angel trumpet, late bloomer since I only planted it end of June

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And an interesting moth discovered under the headboard on the backyard fence, I don’t know what kind it is

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So except for a couple more roof shingles, and Lily having to go outside once in the wind and rain most were fortunate the storm stayed largely off shore.

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winter sleep

It makes sense, the days are shorter, it’s colder (in most places), plants go dormant. So there’s more inclination to sleep, or to want to sleep.

Not for me this week. Hurricane Florence took out a couple of fence panels that I had to replace. The installer guys said the wood had to cure for 6-8 weeks before I could paint so I did that this week. I forgot how long it takes to paint a fence!

I thought I’d get a jump on Christmas card and package mailing. Everybody had the same idea. Probably a good idea to avoid the post office from Thanksgiving till New Year’s.

An email this week had one of the coolest (no pun meant) pictures I have ever seen. There are many places I want to see before I can either no longer get around or see in general. I have been to some, the Grand Canyon was the top of the list, and another isn’t really a place so much as a thing. I would love to see auroras. So this picture is a phoenix aurora–

unnamed.jpg The picture was taken someplace over Norway recently, the photographer is Adrien Mauduit. Auroras are ephemeral, they shimmer and move with beauty. If you visit this photographer’s twitter page there are nothing but auroras, some in motion.

So though plants and most of nature sleeps, geomagnetic storms (coronal mass emissions from our sun) do not. And every summer throws its tantrums in the form of thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and all seasons have something to keep us awake. Right now it’s a winter storm making its way across the midwest to the NC mountains. At least I sure hope it stops there.

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When I took rescue dogs Lily and Lulu to their favorite walking park today, a nature preserve about 15 miles north, I noticed the overpasses and bridges have all been salted but not the roads. Which usually means not much in the way of icy is expected.

I hope this is true. Anyway, staying home sounds like a good idea this weekend.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Salty fall morning

I’m blaming the “active hurricane season” for the hot weather we had, up until last Tuesday when the morning greeted us in the upper 40s. The crispness of fall makes for nostalgia thoughts and the promise of smoky cold nights, clear sparkling  starry night skies. Fall and winter are sleepy months, softly darker, shorter days, a time to recollect and stop. To rest.

It is also when doggies can go back to the beach. I think rescue dogs Lily and Lulu tolerate the sand and salt for me. And I don’t go on the beach when they are not allowed. Because this is a touristy area dogs are forbidden from April 1 to September 30.  So we relish the 6 months we can play in the sand. Or I do.

Picture1022171442_1.jpgLily enjoying the cool sand

There are fewer people on the beaches now as the days get shorter and the water is cooler. Though we did see another sunrise wedding last week. Two weddings actually. And birthday parties.

The surf is still roiling, frothy, staunchly angry from those tropical disturbances I guess. Enough so Lulu is not at all happy about getting her paws wet so she stays up on dry sand. That’s where any passerby might stop to speak, or offer a gentle pet while she demurely wags her tail grateful for the kindness.

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And we pick up the odd shell, smoothed and shined up by the churning sea.Picture1022171439_1.jpg

 

Ocean gifts

So after a storm is a great opportunity for shell seekers. You find beautiful, unusual shells that the ocean keeps locked away in her murky depths. Churned up by chaotic turbulent winds and raucous storms the waves hurtle toward the shore, gently placing their offerings with each tide.

Lily and Lulu and I meandered up the beach the other morning enjoying the gentle breeze and the still-warm water lapping over my feet. Just ahead I spotted three large forms on the dawn-brightening sand and savored what they might be as I walked toward them. Like a shot, a woman in tight black leggings, running shoes, sweatshirt and her blond ponytail pulled neatly through the band behind her cap raced by to my right and quickly scooped up what I had mentally claimed as mine, now hers.

“Jackpot!” she shouted, gleefully.

Somehow this completely diminished the beauty of these shells. I also noticed another, much larger one not 20 feet ahead and sadly watched as the woman ran to grab that one, too.

It wasn’t so much that I missed out on some lovely shells, the ocean isn’t likely to run out anytime soon. What saddened me was the apparent department store final clearance attitude of my fellow beach walker as she vacuumed the beach of its bounty. Shells and all things from the sea are mysterious. They may be explained by scientists– how they come to be, the composite structure of each different shell, but look at the beauty of even the most common shell. There are ridges, colorings, imperfections, a place where a hinge might once have existed, a housing for an animal whose life secrets number greatly against what people claim to know absolutely about it.

So no, I was not disappointed that I missed out on an addition to my growing collection

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I was saddened by how ordinary she made them seem. Just another thing to have, rather than a beautiful gift to be cherished. Of course there are other gifts, a brilliant sunrisePicture1015160717_1.jpg

or the little brittle star tossed casually on top of a pile of shells (not my photo)

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But I suppose there is nothing quite so comforting as a pile of toys during a terrible storm

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Lulu probably had the right idea.