weather

This once was considered a safe topic. Now it seems to spur arguments over global warming or climate crisis. I try not to get into hot water at all costs. There is too much unknown and I am always skeptical of proponents of a thing with mega millions, private jets and many mansions.

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I remember as a child sometime between late January – mid February hearing the term “false spring”. This was a balmy break in the chilling frozen of winter. Suddenly daffodils sprouted, songbirds sang all day and there was a delicious fragrance on a light, spring-like breeze.  It usually lasted only a few days. No more than a week. Then grey, cold days returned well into March.

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This week has been a gift. Mild temperatures around 60-70. I can count on one hand the number of mornings I have seen sparkling frost the entire winter so far. I know, it’s only January. But this has been a milder winter than I can remember in the coastal southeast.

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We’ve had rain but retention ponds that normally have water all year are dry. Marshes and bogs are dry. Peeper frogs are silent.

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There aren’t as many of these signs here as in Florida, or even South Carolina or Georgia. I have never seen an alligator here, but there is a small pond in the neighborhood where I live and others have said they have seen a gator in there. I am cautious walking my dogs around here. But I have not seen it.

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I spoke with a couple we met on one of our walkies this week. The husband was wearing shorts but also wore a light jacket. His wife had on a warm jacket. They both commented that their brains tell them it is winter, and where they moved from to come here that meant weather much colder than we are having. But they were not complaining.

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So again, I am learning to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. I learned to slow down last year thanks to Lily and her injuries. This year it is the weather.

Our teachers are everywhere, if we are willing learners.

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seachange

We get little hints of cooler weather, then heat, as though the tease did not exist at all. There is a strange phenomenon I have heard of but had not seen called seafog. At least not until moving so close to the ocean. This strange and thick mist appears for apparently no reason. It happens on the shoreline as well as inland.

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You can see it at a distance, walk into it, then right out of it as if it wasn’t even there. Like a ghost. Ghost fog.

I am glad now there are more cooler days than warm. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu are happier, I sleep better, walkies are more interesting rather than an endurance challenge.

Yet fall still has its little surprises of flowers, not just the beautiful changing leaves.

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Most of these I don’t even know what they are. This looks like a single-headed messier version of ageratum (old man’s beard), same basic color but untrimmed.

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This looks like a bloodroot but it has needle-like leaves, not broad leaves, so I don’t know what this one is, either.

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Ibis are silly birds to me. But they eat all sorts of grubs and bugs we don’t much want in our lawns, so they can look as funny as they want. I am glad for them.

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klutz

No one else in my family is. Only me.

I looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster online it became commonly used in the late 1950s in America. It is derived from the Yiddish word, klots which literally means ‘wooden beam’.

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I used to laugh this off but as I get older it gets a bit more serious. Like about 15 years ago I was visiting my dad and my step-mother at their house at the beach. She handed me two nested glass bowls that were stuck to un-nest.

Yes. They broke and sliced my finger.

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I wrapped it in a paper towel and figured it would stop bleeding. We kept the conversations going. Three hours later it’s still bleeding. There is no nearby hospital or even a doc-in-a-box (urgent care), so they called an ambulance.  For a cut finger. The ER doc gave me 5 stitches.

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There have been many more instances, I will spare you. Fast-forward to today. Years ago I learned the hard way I can not use a weed-eater. Not only do I get too close to that whacking string but I beheaded many unsuspecting plants. So whenever I want to edge flower beds I use a garden snip. This works really well but is time-intensive. On a day like today I was happy just to be outside. Even though my area of town did not get the quenching rains so desperately needed, the thunderstorms that passed through last night cleared the hot air and humidity.

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So I plopped down in front of the garden stones and clipped the overgrown grass. Lily and Lulu stretched out close by occasionally sniffing the light breeze.

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I absent-mindedly commented to Lulu how much the grass had grown, snipping away, hands buried deep when I felt a sharp pain on the same finger I nicked for my step-mother. Drawing it out sure enough a bright red spot bloomed where I actually sliced off a good chunk of skin.

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I ran inside, wrapped it in thick paper towels, again, holding it over my head. It finally stopped bleeding to the point where I could put anti-bacterial ointment and bandage it in gauze. It has even stopped throbbing now, so I think I will live.

Maybe I should get a weed whacker anyway. I can always replace the flowers.

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Lulu exhausted from the excitement.

 

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impressions

This was one of those weeks that can only be described as a gift. The little coastal town I live near doesn’t get anything most people can call winter, but it gets cold enough. Even some snow and ice some years, just not this year. Not yet, anyway.

But apparently winter gave a reprieve to some areas this past week, here too. Days were 60s-70s and nights did not get much below 45. So electric bills will be lower. Abundant sun, expansive blue skies, wispy playful contrails and clouds decorating the air.

IMG_0870.JPGCape Fear, upriver

Mindful of Emily Dickinson’s lovely poem, “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” (…Winter afternoons–…)

IMG_0866.JPGRed oak clinging to what is left of autumn

IMG_0867.JPGa closer look at leaf veins with the sun behind the tree trunk

So according to askabiologist.com* the leaves turn when temperatures get colder and the tree starts “breaking down the chlorophyll into smaller particles”, leaving more room for other colors (carotenoids) to make the orange, reds and yellows. Other trees (maples) have anthocyanins that create red, pink and purple colors.

The theory I grew up believing was that leaf colors changed when the days got shorter and there was less sunlight to make green. So that always seemed plausible but days get shorter all over the world and leaves don’t change color in warmer climates. So the cold theory makes more sense now.

I just never thought about it.

It’s interesting when we accept ideas unquestioning. Especially when they are about non-personal things, like nature. Facts are applicable to everything but so much seems subjective. So my ideas about why leaves change color, that I have believed for years (evidently I didn’t pay close attention in botany class) has been corrected.

It makes me wonder how many ideas, theories, concepts I am still holding true without really having it right.

0.jpgPileated woodpecker, base of far left tree hunting insects

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu always get things right. And they are generous in their opinions, whenever I am at a loss.

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https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color

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

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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