Hurricane Irma: The Aftermath (post 4)

Sunday night, September 10, 2017

We spent an uneasy couple of hours in our “safe room” before it became apparent that the winds were not as loud. Some of us even slept, but the people most uncomfortable moved to the bedrooms. We were curious enough at this point to venture into the kitchen and get a report from the radio there. We still had power, but no cable or internet to follow the progress of the storm. The report put the eye of the storm to our east and moving away from us. We were very thankful, very relieved, but aware that the storm was still raging around the house.

Monday, September 11, 2017

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The demise of the kapok tree. RIP my friend. 

Monday morning I got up early, hoping to survey the Oneacrewoods as soon as there was light. The first thing visible shocked me like I haven’t been shocked in a long time. Our landmark kapok tree was lying horizontal on the ground. It had ripped down through our large grapefruit trees, and had also taken limbs from the surrounding oaks. Some of it’s larger top branches were caught up in the oaks, dangling precariously. It had missed a minivan belonging to one of our friends by a few feet, crashed through a board fence and landed across the neighboring driveway.  The torn root ball was up in the air, exposing a huge hole filled with mud. It might be a little silly to be emotionally attached to a tree, but I’m a silly woman when it comes to nature. It was a special tree.

The rest of the yard was covered with water, and branches of all sizes, but there were no other trees down and no damage to the house. Neighbors were starting to walk around. Several came down to look at our carnage.  On our way out to the street to see if the vehicles parked there were still there (they were) we heard that the curfew, that was to go until 3 pm, had already been lifted. Even though it was blustery and raining off and on, Kathy and I decided to walk across to their mobile home park and see if their house had blown away.

Emergency patrols were already in the park, marking damaged buildings with orange spray paint. They warned us that it might not be safe to be there with so much loose metal lying on the ground, and the wind still gusting. We made it to Kathy and Mark’s mobile and found it looking untouched. The canal behind it had come to the top of the bank but not high enough to flood their house. The damage in the park was hard to figure out – homes with the roofs ripped off were right next to ones that were untouched. The two residents that had stayed in the park in spite of the evacuation order said that there was a tornado which might have been responsible.

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At Golf Lakes MHP

Around 11 am chain saws were being heard everywhere around us. Our neighbor who had weathered the storm elsewhere arrived and came over to help us clear as much of the driveway as possible. He and his girlfriend pitched in and started cutting branches and making piles of debris. We loaded it onto our truck later and began to haul it out to the road. There are six residents bordering our drive and all of us had downed trees and branches. The piles out by the road grew larger by the hour.

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Multiple truckloads on day 1 of aftermath. Easy to throw stuff on, actually harder to pull it off out at the road.

We worked all day until we couldn’t do it anymore. I loaded brush and hauled for the neighbors to pay them back for clearing the drive. We slogged through the flooded yards getting muddy, sweaty, tired and hungry. For the first time ever, we had the neighbors over for hot dogs. It took a hurricane to make it happen but I’m glad it did.

Day one of the aftermath ended with much accomplished but so much more to do that I felt physically, emotionally and mentally oppressed. The knowledge that everyone needed to attend to their own damage left little hope for finding help. I had only one person I could think of that might be able to work with me on my mess. I had texted him earlier in the day and hadn’t received an answer. I figured he was somewhere working for someone who needed him more than I did. When you believe as I do, that God knows and helps you through things in one way or another, you wait for help, or for strength until it comes. That’s the way we left it on Monday.

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Views designed with depression in mind.

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Grab a rake, please.

Today’s Grateful Thought

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There are thousands more to come down.

There are so many beautiful places in this country. I can’t help but think that I am in one of the greatest for this time of year. I’m a “Yankee” according to some who were born here in Florida, but after 30 years in this state I think I’ve earned the right to brag on it. I’ve spent the last two days working outside in perfect weather. Perfect. I’ve driven past the sparkling blue Gulf. I’ve sat out in the yard, visiting with neighbors and listening to the birds. I’ve been watching the buds on my orchids swell and open to the sun. And tonight I’m out in the back yard listening to the crickets while I watch the brush pile of downed limbs burn, glow and spark upward. I love living in Florida.

It’s the way I’ve always experienced it. When I start anticipating a possible move, I also start a new awareness and appreciation of my present home. It’s the season when one of our rare trees in the oneacrewoods, the kapok, blooms and drops literally thousands of blossoms on the ground. The flowers are the size of badminton “birdies” and have to be raked up or they become a wet, sticky mess that sticks to tires and shoes. What could seem like a never-ending chore, since they are falling even as I rake, is instead a marvel to me. Someday I will not have this gorgeous tree to tend, and that thought makes me sad. I think of all the energy and work that has gone into the production of these showy, red missiles and wonder what the abundance means. Was it our wet fall, or does the tree know that there are hard seasons ahead?

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I raked this clean just yesterday.

The truth is, I’ve loved everywhere God has allowed me to live, even the places I didn’t want to go to at first. There are reasons for being where we end up being, and we are there to look for those reasons. Looking with expectation, curiosity, and the desire to learn is the challenge.  Tonight I’m really thankful for our time in Florida. I’m just sayin’, it’s a great place to be.

Shoveling the Drive

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My drive is lined not with snowbanks, but flowerbanks. Rough, huh?

While some are bundled up and shoveling the white stuff, I am in my shirtsleeves and shorts shoveling the red stuff.  I’m not complaining.

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Every day, the heavy, wet blossoms fall out of the kapok tree. They are sticky as they decompose and notorious for embedding themselves in the soles of our shoes and tires of our vehicles. Capable of denting a car, or a head…

 

 

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JJJ 2016

Lessons from The Natural World

The Natural World

I could feel the blisters coming up, but I couldn’t stop.

We have a beautiful tree in our yard, a somewhat rare tropical Kapok tree.  It’s very tall, having grown up in a grove of oak trees – it had to go up to get the sun.  Most of the year we don’t pay much attention to it, other than to admire the trunk.

What  a beautiful trunk you have!
What a beautiful trunk you have!

But in the spring it flowers, and for two to three weeks  the ground below is showered with the red blooms.  These are not like the delicate white dogwood  flower but the type that will put a dent in your car should it happen to land there. We put a parking area under this tree. What were we thinking?!

big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage
big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage

The mat of squishy, slippery rotting vegetation is hard to walk on or drive on and it creates a brown, moldy looking paste that is death to a car’s paint job.

Die, paint job, die.
Die, paint job, die.

I was considering all this while raking the debris into heavy piles of “stuff” and my usual outdoor thought surfaced.  What is nature teaching me? Could it be that we are all parked in places in our lives where “stuff” is falling on us that is damaging us? I had no trouble connecting that to some relationally toxic environments that I’ve been in lately.  And I had just read a blog post about dealing with self-absorbed people who drop words and thoughts on others without awareness of the effects.

I’m not exactly proud that this was my first evaluation of the nature flower bomb situation, because the next place my thinking went proved more valuable.  What if I am the tree?  What’s happening to the people who are parked in my vicinity during the hours and days of my life? What kind of clean-up chores are necessary after I’ve been around?  Now there was food for thought.  It gave me a whole new perspective on spending an afternoon doing crafts with a child, or taking time to shop for my quadriplegic client, or the contacts with people in my study group.  There are a lot of people “parked” under my tree of influence and I can make decisions on how I affect them, for good or bad.

Yes, the blisters are there.  On other days, it’s a sore back, or a sunburn or just being dog-tired.  Is it worth it? I say yes, as I look at the results – a clean drive and parking area and new incentive to interact in a better way with my friends and neighbors on planet earth .  Surrounded by trees, plants, sky, dirt and fresh air we open ourselves to hear some really valuable messages.  I’m just  sayin’, whoever created the natural world had a really good idea and today I get it.