#155 What Was. What Isn’t. What Is. (Rev. Ed.)

What Was. What Isn’t. What Is. 

Darkness was falling before I remembered a storm is coming. It is not unusual for the tail end of a hurricane to hit the Northeast. Often it is a welcome relief to what had been a building summer drought. Out in front of the house there are flowers in pots with less than ideal drainage. There are flowers in pots that could easily be damaged by even moderate winds. There are multiple wind chimes hanging from the trees and the remaining bird feeder, the one for the finches whose fledglings are still feasting on the last of the seed, is still hanging from the porch. It is not unusual to need to move summer outdoor-living items to shelter for safety during an oncoming storm but as I began to move the pots I was struck by the realization it is July. July. And there is a former hurricane moving out to sea over New England. This usually happens in late August or September when the bedraggled plants are showing signs of the end of the growing season. The flowers in these current pots are just beginning their growth spurts after June’s transplanting. A drought was declared for most of the state in June. The temperatures in June moved like a yo-yo from 50’s to 90’s and back again and again even into the beginning of July. 

Flower pots, wind chimes, bird feeders all were headed to the porch where they were joining two overly large houseplants which are still trying to adapt to being outside. Hopefully the wind will be moderate. The rainfall amounts are still not forecast as the track of  where the storm will move out to sea isn’t quite clear. There could be 2” of rain or just enough to end this June-declared drought. Or we could flood. 

Just a flash ago, Lytton, British Columbia set an all time record heat of 121 degrees. Elsa is a record setting July hurricane.* The animals and the plants, the fruits and the vegetables that we’ve known all of our lives cannot adapt to such rapidly changing climate conditions. We humans who are opposed to genetic modification, we humans who plant only heirloom varieties, will either have to move or accept that, even if science can work at warp speed to provide for the rapidly changing environment, home grown food is going to be a very real problem. Local agriculture everywhere is going to be a very real problem. Pray for the survival of bees. Be prepared to alter your lifestyles. 

What was, is no longer.

What is, is unknown.

What will be, baffles us all.

There’s the tail end of a hurricane out there and it’s July. 

*https://bmcnoldy.blogspot.com/2021/07/elsas-extraordinary-place-in-history.html    

Apologies for the first two posts fro July 9, 2021 that you may have received in your inbox. Once again I fought with the WordPress software and lost. This is a reposting in, hopefully, the right format.    

#137 Fast Air

Fast air.

I woke to intense sunlight brightly detailing the carnations I’d bought for myself now sitting on my bureau. Yesterday’s snow and rain had blown the quickly moving storm out to the far open sea leaving behind a clear bright sky with that very welcome intense morning light.

This is a thought dream. It’s not about the science of weather which I too lightly understand, It is about the emotional experience of it of weather, of storms and systems that move along the coast daily.  I find myself wondering if storms systems move more freely once over water unlike those memories I have of weather systems hanging on for days over the high hills or valleys in my geographically plunked pasts. What I experience now on an overcast day is far easier to tolerate if there is reasonable certainty the day after will bring back the cheer and warmth of the sun.

If I truly grasped meteorology no doubt I’d understand the movement of fast and slow air in more precise and scientific ways. I would not be relying on my observations and guesses but then again, there is comfort in believing the fairy tale versions of things such as the belief that light follows dark in predictable ways and that, when in the midst of oppressive clouds of gloom or a raging wind, there is certainty in next day relief.

In a far Northeast winter the presence of sunlight is a game changer. Yesterday’s ice storm which coated trees in icy jackets becomes a magical morning fairyland of shimmer as the sun rises. Yesterday’s rain, frozen by overnight temperature dips means black ice will hide in the shadows, unsafe surfaces for cars and legs alike, but such shadows disappear as sun creeps into their recesses. Overnight heavy snows covers everything leaving us to marvel at the transformed landscape. Nature as artist can swirl snowdrifts into sharp peaks and valleys, using violent winds as brushes, creating impossibly beautiful sculptures in mundane places. 

Dark times, bad weather, and overcast gloom that moves quickly can be tolerated and brings, by the way of contrast, a particular kind of joy. Lingering, incessant stagnation (of weather and everything else) is a much harder condition, one that  challenges us to dig deeply into our psyches to get ourselves through.

So bring on fast air. Let’s rejoice in the movement made possible of air moving fast over water, unrestrained, unsnagged by peaks or valleys, flowing freely, as beacons for the way our spirits want to flow.


			

# 130 Presence

Presence.

While on a Zoom class on a Blurday afternoon I found myself looking away from the screen and out the windows. The ocean was heaving, rising swells crashing on rocks, whomping like it had been doing since the night before. “It’s a presence”, I thought, “a living breathing presence”, but that is as far as I could get with metaphors.

The ocean is so close, yet it’s not a neighbor with an unpredictable temper prone to occasional bouts of drink and rage. It’s not a relative, or friend, or housemate and its moods cannot always be forecast by NOAA. The ocean is such a vast unfathomable there there. Yet it is constant motion, water as wildly unpredictable as its cohorts earth, fire, and air. Oceans, like other components of planet earth, like mountains, like vast forests, like endless prairie, remind those in proximity of our own puniness. We are not a drop in the bucket of such energy and this alone is a compelling reason to live on such edges. Vastness keeps one humble, keeps us within the lines of our own coloring book as we fill in each day’s spaces. 

Recently I have been thinking of how both great and small water is, endlessly responsive and never resistant, the slightest energy shift  of anything can cause variations of movement ranging from nearly placid to as close to unhinged fury as I’m ever going to experience unless I put myself in a boat on its surface. (Not likely. That I leave to braver souls.)

I started writing this blog in an attempt to use words and corresponding images to try to give a glimpse into what daily, year round proximity to the ocean felt like, to expand awareness of “ocean”. I was gifted the opportunity to live out my wildest dream with a front row seat yet four years into this experience and I have barely nudged my own comprehension. It is beyond addiction. It is like tethering oneself to an out of control force field. It is exhilarating but often exhausting, in winter especially. Sometimes after days of pounding my psyche feels bruised, my head wants quiet, my sketchy sleep wants oblivion but that’s not part of this. The ocean teaches absolutely that it is not, and never will be, about me. 

#128 Looking Forward, Looking Back



Looking Forward, Looking Back.

Glasses raised, a toast is made welcoming the New Year at a Solstice party hosted by my daughter’s friend at my daughter’s house in San Francisco. Good riddance to 2019 which hadn’t been a great year for most of us there, friends and strangers gathered together and expressing hope for the year to come: 2020. 

This memory gives me caution as I read and listen (via Zoom) the hopes expressed for this horrid year’s ending and the turn to 2021. I stay silent, as I’ve played Debbie Downer one too many times since last March. I won’t list here my causes for concern, my awareness of astrological transits that hint broadly of more immediate troubles to come.

My focus at this moment concerns the range and extremity of recent storms. Since October there has been a string of destructive weather, particularly in the form of high wind damage. A wide spread nor’easter dumped a lot of snow and, out here by the water, there were totally bare patches of ground just feet away from a five foot snow drift that engulfed the outdoor staircase to the house. The driveway was blown clean, my car didn’t not require even a mitten’s worth of brushing, yet at the place where the driveway meets the road the snow piled deep into a concrete consistency that held fast to all four tires of my housemate’s SUV. It took the substantial truck of the plow guy  to free it. 

A couple of weeks later a storm blew up from the south, the 3rd, 4th, 5th (?) storm since late September to come from that direction. On Christmas Day it was 55 degrees with torrential rain bands, and 65 mph wind gusts. When it was over the snow had vanished. Bits of green grass could be seen in the mud. Beside where that staircase pile of snow had been there were pale green day lily nubs protruding from the ground looking like they were waiting for a spring rain. 

Every one of us can share examples of extremes of climate and their effects on our lives. Like so much of what we have been going through we understand that now, nothing is predictable. Human behavior has altered what we once knew and took for granted. Now we are beginning to understand that Nature is reacting and we are not (as if we ever were) in control. 

So much has needed our attention, injustices gone untended, the distribution and accumulation of wealth and poverty showing unprecedented ranges, divisions by class, gender, and politics pushing beyond any sense of reason or logic. I have much faith in the rectification of such dire ills. I don’t expect to live to see the eventual outcomes, the long range benefits of our current disruptions, but I am certain they will come. In the meantime we are, literally and figuratively, going to be in rough seas. My future hope is far stronger than my past rage. Divisional politics has run out of time. Our only choice is to pull together to find ways to meet each challenge as it comes. Much will be lost but there is much to be gained. 

The past is over. There is only the present moment headed into the future of Now. 

 

 

 

#109 Wet or Dry?


  • Wet or Dry?

Another set of thunderstorms rolled through late in the afternoon and, as has happened so many times in this dry summer, there was rain both north and south leaving us sandwiched in the middle with the barest trace of rain. I gathered the hose to water the now late summer hodgepodge of overgrown perennials and the too densely packed herbs I’d transplanted into the closest ground I could reach. The only stars of this jumble of what once must have been a landscape of joy are the older established hydrangea and the brand new one planted by a friend at the beginning of the summer. The newest one, plopped under tree cover for hydrangea loving shade, had barely received a drop of precipitation.

Meanwhile, the western states are in the midst of an unnaturally early fire season. Colorado, Montana, and especially beleaguered California, are in the midst of raging infernos. In coastal California a mass of dry thunderstorms (different from this hit or miss business on the northeast Atlantic coast) set off more that 500 blazes at a time of pandemic shortage of firefighting personnel. Homeowners have ignored mandatory evacuations, staying put in hopes of saving their homes and communities from ember-caused losses. There are many sleepless nights in near and far away geographies where loved ones worry as friends and relatives are putting themselves in potential danger—in August—when fire season usually starts in October.

At this same time hurricanes move into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico dropping more rain than can possibly be absorbed by saturated soils (souls?). These opposite forces of nature seem oddly parallel with the divisive people politics raging at the same time. For years I have linked dire external weather and internal emotional upheavals (both individual and societal). In this time of changing climates this observation seems more accurate than ever but what I lack is the “why” so, like everyone else caught in these storms, I spin and stew looking for answers and solutions, and I come up baffled.

 

 

Continue reading “#109 Wet or Dry?”

#108 Clouds: A Photographic Essay

Clouds: A Photographic Essay.

Clouds are backdrops on beautiful summer days or clouds can threaten. Clouds are indicators of incoming or departing weather. Clouds can trigger fear or danger or joy. We notice them. Sometimes. Not always. Their presence can stop us in our tracks if we remember to stop and look upward.

Just a few days ago I watched the outer cloud bands from the tail end of Hurricane Isaias race northward. My location was far from the center of the storm so there were occasional small openings in the gray trails speeding overhead and patches of blue could be seen through those openings, reminders that this storm was not going to linger. Watching this weather and feeling the fierce wind pushing against the glass of the porch door on which I was leaning felt like a great privilege and echoed something I’ve heard from many: “I love storms.” I think that also translates as “I love clouds.” They come in so many shapes, sizes, and with such purpose.

Out from Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Over the Catskill Mountains, NY

Over Isabel Segunda, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Over Vieques, Puerto Rico on the road to Red Beach.

Over San Francisco

Over Acadia National Park, Maine at Sunset

 

Over the California Coast near the  Elkhorn Slough

Over the Pacific Ocean near Pescadero, California

Over Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Over the South Hills Mall, Poughkeepsie, NY

Over Grand Isle, Vermont and Lake Champlain

Another over Grand Isle, Vermont and Lake Champlain

Over Mouth of Casco Bay, Maine at Sunrise

 

Over the Ashokan Reservoir, Catskill Mountains, NY


			

# 80 The Range of Beauty

The Range of Beauty.

Many of us in cold climates grumble about January: it’s long, it’s cold, it’s dark, and worst of all, it is a very long way from spring.

First there was an odd warm spell followed by a falling-in-clumps day of unserious snow, one of those pretty snows like the lazy flakes depicted on holiday cards. By afternoon the glop was present most everywhere with cleaned up roadways and good going. Then the wind picked up in late afternoon and by nightfall the temperatures plummeted and the glop froze solidly into ice ruts. By morning it was 11 degrees with 40 mph wind gusts. It became one of those winter trials where something–the car, the house–something, will break down because that is just the way it works when weather goes to extremes. There were repair trucks in driveways fixing the (most likely) expensive problems.

In a very typical New England winter weather pattern the cold was broken a day or so later when a snowstorm moved through, warming the air and dumping ten or so inches of pristine white over everything. The sun rose brilliantly in the early morning, the storm having moved north. The colors of the ocean and the sky and the light were exquisite and constantly shifting  the whole day.

Silvers, blues, traces of pink here and there, with tinges of green as the waves gently broke on shore, and a shining band of light on the horizon, like a magic highlighter pulling your eyes to the dancing light of that line of shimmer.

My thoughts turned to the beautiful summer houses on the shores of the Atlantic, empty, their owners far away in warmer climes. The measurement of abode when one has choices are often based on “climate” usually meaning temperature. We humans don’t care for being cold (many of us but not all.) But today’s winter beauty was every bit as glorious as a peak summer’s day. It might have even exceeded it, in the stark light and sparkling white. A gull lifted off the rocks, just as it would do in the summer, only the backdrop to the flight was gray and black and white, the colors of the bird itself.  The symmetry was precise and cause for a gasp of recognition and elation. This exquisite day was missed by those who were elsewhere.

I sat on the porch warmed to 70 degrees by the sun, my heavy wool sweater discarded temporarily on the floor. When the sun slides down under the horizon at day’s end the sweater will be needed again, but for this afternoon of light and beauty there is only “Thanks”.

# 69 Winds of Change

Winds of Change.

There was little sleep. They tore at the house relentlessly the entire night, shaking the wall above my head, teeth rattling south winds 50 mph and more. They came, piling on, after a recent nor’easter took down trees and cut our power. Dirtied yellow mounds of ocean foam packed into rock crevices, evidence of the fierceness of the wind. In the morning one of the shutters on the south house wall lay on the lawn beside a torn window screen, each ripped from their moorings in the wild night.

Across the country the winds in California built to 100 mph in places tearing across brittle, dry landscapes, the flight from north to south, fears growing, memories triggered. Fire. Terrifying, relentless fire raging through beautiful terrain, vineyards, ranch land, farms, or houses no match for its raw power. The people who live this land can only flee from its path, their hopes and prayers for safety intertwined with the fiercely unpredictable winds.

In both East and West damage is increasing, the elemental dangers of fire and water driven by winds rising in frequency and strength. We hunker down, we evacuate, we deal with the aftermath one way or another. The scars remain, seen in the charred landscape or unseen in the psyche, each taking toll on what has been touched. Torched. Places we love are forever linked with the knowledge of danger. Electricity cruising through wires above, the power that enables clean—fed—informed—safe now seen as fragile or threat. Nothing seems certain other than more danger, more damage, our future carrying awareness of the tentative nature of our lives.

The balance of humans over nature is reversing. Nature’s had enough of our human destruction, our blatant disregard of the obvious. We’ve fouled our waters. We’ve discarded plastics, chemicals, scattering them on the land and seas. We’ve polluted our streams, ponds, marshes, lakes, oceans. Every place on our planet is affected and changing. The chips are being called in, driven by air moving at great speed and with great force. Ice is melting, the exponential warmth causing additional melt. The water rises in some places and disappears in others.

We knew this was coming. We may have thought we’d be gone by the time it hit. We were wrong.

 

# 68 Winter’s Comin’

 Winter’s Comin’.
The signs of winter are everywhere except in the warmish 50 degree temperatures soon to succumb to the plunge below freezing. Snow is in the forecast for the end of the week. Most all the leaves have been ripped from their hosts; the clam and lobster shacks are cleaned and buttoned up.  The charming, tradition-soaked inns with their fading verandas and wicker settees tucked in lovely spots by the sea , have been emptied, the last hangers-on gone until next season. 
 
Dead and dying flowers and herbs have been dumped from their pots, frost already having browned their edges. The sad, salt-air-damaged porch chairs have been stuffed into bags and bungeed together on the porch, the last of summer things tucked under while snow shovels now lean against the porch wall sprung from summer banishment in the back corner of the garage. The fireplace, newly repaired, has a full tank of propane. [Note to self: never, ever, let a tank run dry nor let the pilot light go out.] The whopping repair bill’s now paid, the “ouch” a learning tool.
 
Summer’s storms, no match for the gales that blow come Fall, have passed and the beginnings of winter surf rises and pounds. The first seasonal nor’easter, come and gone, the tree death evident on every road, limbs and branches piled in front of houses awaiting town pickup. Fresh chainsaw tracks on stumps of ancient trees, their exposed rotting cores announce clearly why they went down in the ferocious wind.
 
Gloom sets in, clouds and fog hanging low for days. It’s a fight to keep emotions from matching the skies. The hard, red flu shot site on my upper arm  has softened and stopped hurting. Long ago an earlier me anticipated winter with glee. Now cold means aching joints and shivers.
 
This season’s shift comes with force where subtlety would do. Winter barges in shoving Fall aside like an overblown bully. We can batten down the hatches or leave the stuff outside to see if it makes it through. My  attempts for order over chaos don’t represent my mindset, so filled with dread for what lies ahead.

# 66 Higgins Beach: A Photo Essay

 

Higgins Beach.

A nor’easter moved off Cape Cod never reaching Maine while the surf from the storm pounded the more northern shores for three days. The waves, not large enough to be frightening, delighted visitors and residents alike and the surfers on Higgins Beach finally got some long rides. As the light on day four left the sky, all was right in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

# 63 Waterfront

 

#63  Waterfront

There are so many different ways to love oceans. Have you experienced the feel of a small, working harbor in the early morning, both moving and moored boats filling in all the “spaces”,  serenity and bustle at the same time?

Do you love coves, tucked or nestled, perhaps just a tad claustrophobic, and almost always sweet? Surely you’ve been in ports, chalked full of sea commerce, definitely not conducive to exploration via kayak.; tankers, container and cruise ships, and the myriad varieties of vessels that hunt for food from the ocean, going in and out of busy, deep channels. 

Beaches are the places loved by most of us, especially those with hard, good-for- walking sand that stretch for miles, our wearied nerves soothed by the rhythmic waves, our eyes forever searching for discarded gems left behind by tides. We dive or walk into the waters, warm or not-so-warm, tingling, always slightly a tad wary, wondering about those things that call the beckoning water home.

Beloved are rocky shores feeling, and sounding, quite different from beaches, the rhythms more pressing and louder, the walking more of a challenge. They, too, hold discarded tidal gems but those are often much harder to get to and almost always far more battered.

And then there are glorious marshes. whose surface seems so placid, the teeming life and death struggles in them more apparent to those long on patience and having magnified lenses. Those beautiful marshes, bulldozed, maligned, abandoned, then filled in, misused and misunderstood by humans for centuries, we humans not knowing them for the sources of life they contain. Houses beside marshland are every bit as in danger as those perched perilously close to shore; the steady, quieter rise of water as capable of tearing houses apart as crashing waves. 

We flock to bays, capes, peninsulas, islands, estuaries, open ocean waters, wanting to feel life by the vastness of water wildness. We are drawn by ocean and the range of experience we find in its proximity. This continues even while we monitor our screens showing videos and photos illustrating its destructive powers. Hurricanes seem to be growing larger, the death tolls rising, the property destruction catastrophic. Will the force of these storms drive us humans away from the solace or retreat we feel or once felt, the pull of life beside ocean waters beaten by the reality of no-way-to survive a Cat Five bearing down on its next location? Ours?

#62 Maliase

Malaise.

*Warning: Familiar Themes repeated here.

Is it because Fall is moving in, the colors everywhere changing to reds and browns and golds, leaving the vibrant greens for too many long months before they return? Fall is the favorite season of so many, but I find the transition–the colder nights, the dying plants, the disappearing birds–disheartening. There are oddities this year: the red and gray squirrels and the chipmunks disappeared a couple of months ago and they have not returned.

Monarch butterflies are on the move, headed south, gathering nectar for sustenance along the route from the last blooming rugosas, sedums, wild asters, and more. I’ve been watching them flutter by, mostly solitary but sometimes with one or two others, their purposeful migratory movements disguised by the way they seem to meander from plant to plant, so unlike hawk migrations. How do such ethereal creatures fly so far? How do they cope with cold nights and the increasing Fall winds?

Darkness arrives early and stays longer, its rapid increase from day to day quite apparent. Sunrise is more spectacular, if I can rise to it before daybreak when it is most vivid. Fall light is edged as the sun rises or sets, the angled light sharply defining rooftops, trees, grasses. Sometimes the light is strongly tinged pink or gold infusing everything it touches. The other evening traveling home as the sun was setting, the porch of a house, geraniums hanging in pots, rockers still in the coming evening, were bathed in strong rose colored light making the ordinary into a vivid, magical place if only for a few fleeting minutes, the whole scene glowing as if someone had pushed an alternate universe button.

I suppose it would help to keep the radio and the social media turned “off” in this time of wind-downs. The air waves are full of malaise, foul stories keep coming in a steady drumbeat, illustrating the lack of Humanity in the human nature of our beings. Fall brings hurricanes, damaging homes near or far, destruction and devastation. These magnificent, destructive, behemoths always felt powerful and dangerous but now, with Climate Change evidence abounding, our vulnerability feels enhanced. What will be destroyed next? What lovely palm-treed place of winter refuge, of tropic promise, will next be forever altered? Refugees, from storms or political upheaval, on the move everywhere. When might you or I be among their numbers?

It feels to me as if the Grifter mentality has spread like a plague, insatiable money hunger accompanied by power dreams, shoving us ordinary folk to the edges of forgotten and unimportant. The media pushes a constant supply of stories of cronies doing wrong and getting caught as the rest of us wonder how so many can gather more than their share of resources now becoming scarcer. So many of us do not care about the accumulations of wealth or power, preferring our lives to be filled with care and love of family, neighbors, friends, just getting by, content to notice what is beautiful in our lives–like sunsets and sunrises, and fleeting wings departing, while we steal off for one or two more moments of beach time., savoring every last moment before the oncoming cold.

 

#54 High Summer

High Summer.

Have you ever noticed that the season of our birth seems to creates in us a preference for that season? I’ve held this idea for a long time. Being a child born in the height of summer I relish this time of the year. I love warm nights and soft breezes, the kind that don’t require sweaters. 

I have lived in cold places and in each of these places I have craved the warmth of summer the entire year. This was strongest in the years spent in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and now here in Maine. High summer days astound me with their sparkle and feeling of abundance. The progression of fruits alone are enough to produce (pun intended) abundant indulgence; strawberries, cherries, raspberries, peaches and nectarines feel like health elixirs, the warmth of the sun still radiating from their juices. Nothing from a freezer’s depths can reproduce that fresh fruit joy.

Another particular joy includes summer storms, the boom and rumbling of thunder, the majesty of black clouds and flashes of light most often appearing on hot, muggy days. Such abrupt weather, sometimes violent, brings us an alive awareness with perhaps a touch of fear. And with luck there are rainbows.

“Swelter”, that overwhelming blanket of heat and humidity, is not as much a trait of summer in far northern climes but that duo arrives even here a few days each year. When the air is thick and the temperatures are hot it feels as if gravity has somehow increased. Summer feels less gentle in the more southern latitudes where’ve I’ve lived. The more southerly locations often had more frequent and more violent storms and oppressive stagnant air that preceeds them, but up north the windows are open to the sounds of birds and the breezes blowing through the house. Each day feels precious, like a lineup of jewels one after another.  There are so very few days of warmth in a year’s progression this far north that even sharing it with the pesky bugs seems worth it.

#50 The Prognosticator

The Prognosticator.

A friend passed along a forecasting tool designed to illustrate future sea level changes in coastal United States. It is a quite interesting interactive map worthy of exploration time. While there is good science behind its making, I don’t think changes that are forthcoming will work out exactly as this tool suggests, even though I think the visualizations that the tool provides may help.

I’ve only been living next to the wild ocean for two and a half years yet in that short expanse of time we’ve had a few storms that suggest to me that predicted changes will not come in an orderly or predictable manner.  It’s my observation that there have been a few storms in my time here that hint of what kind of weather and climate changes might be in store. An October storm produced 70 mph winds out of the SSE, an unusual direction for such ferocity. This storm took down massive trees–oaks and maples–which had withstood many years of storms. My thoughts were that these trees had adapted their defense mechanisms of root and limb growth to the nor’easters and to the prevailing westerly winds of the Northeast. What took these trees down, it seemed to me, was that the fierce winds of the October storm came from a direction that did not normally produce a threat and those strong old trees were not prepared so they went down. It took six days to clear the roads of power lines and debris of tree bodies and parts-of-tree bodies that were everywhere.

A year ago in March New England and many parts of the Northeast experienced four nor’easters on a row. One of them was a particularly nasty storm but I think it was the collective power of storm after storm which did the real damage, both physically and psychologically. As some experts forecast, it is the ferocity of weather which is amping up at the same time  becoming more erratic. As I played with the variations possible with this online coastline change predictor, I visualized storm damage that could alter how we feel about our beloved landscapes, turning what is familiar into an alien landscapes. Places which have been denuded of trees, by fire or tornados for example, alter these landscapes with changes that will last for years or even forever. Such drastic alterations change our personal relationships to the land. Communities are re-formed with loss a constant theme for both those who go and those who stay.

Humans continue to build housing along our shorelines as close to the water as they can, which is understandable considering how many of us are pulled toward water and especially oceans. If the magnitude of destructive storms and resulting financial loss ramps up it it is possible that our what has been our deep attraction may evolve into fear. What happens when places we thought of as  safe havens become highly dangerous?  What happens to us after we experience the imaginable? Think Hurricane Sandy and NY/NJ. Think Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico. Think Paradise, CA.

Let me pile on one with another one of  my possibly hair-brained theories, this one particularly anecdotal. Many years ago when living in Northeastern Vermont, I noticed there seemed to be to be a correlation between fierce weather (particularly in the form of wild winter snowstorms) and surges of psychologically/emotionally negative outbursts among friends and family. One winter in particular seemed filled with extremes on both weather and psychological fronts and I felt there was a link between the internal and external storms. Did emotional and physical climates mirror each other? Correlation? Causation? There is zero science here but if my long ago observation has any validity, the  current pitched emotional climate in this country (and in the world) might mean that we could be in for a truly rough and unprecedented ride in our coming weather conditions, thus confirming the worst of our climate change fears.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Predictor:

https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/#/layer/slr/2/-12212072.495643146/1663119.5452652262/4/satellite/none/0.8/2050/interHigh/midAccretion

#37 Astronomical High Tide

Astronomical High Tide.

The first questions to ask:  How big is the passing storm system?  What is its timing in relationship to the full moon?

Follow with: Checking the National Weather Service / NOAA forecasting website which provides detailed information on predicted wind direction and speed (in knots), and sea heights.

Followed by: Tide/Tidal search for the closest coastal near your location. (a few miles of coast line can make a difference) giving high/low tide times.

To complete the picture: The National Data Center Buoy App, real time measurements from instruments on that buoy you can see from shore giving exact wind speed and direction, wave height, wave  frequency and more.

Living on the edge of open ocean the dangers are obvious.  But the loveliness of marsh, the serene grasses and placid waters, can become swollen masses altering contours of wildlife refuges, tidal rivers, house distances from rising waters along marsh roadways. Serious business all.

Mostly, day-to-day life goes on. But ears or eyes stay alert for two phrases in proximity: “Astronomical High Tide” and the dreaded “Nor’easter”.

Together they scream “Watch Out!”. That’s when specific information becomes critical.

Note. For more information on astronomical high tides: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/restles4.html

#28 Storm’s Coming

 

Storm’s Coming.

What did it feel like as a storm arrived in times before advanced weather forecasting? As the wind howled and the snow started to pile up against buildings the ferocity and duration of the storm would have been unknown. Did the folk knowledge of the times give them accurate indicators of what was coming? How long a storm would last? How fierce it would be? How did they read the signs and how did they prepare for what was coming?

Thinking about weather seems to be a primary human concern.
In modern life I think there may have been times or places where inhabitants of say, San Diego, felt they were living in a weather paradise but I doubt that now there are many—any—such places remaining without at least cyclical weather concerns. Drought, fires, mudslides, flooding affects all and now the Golden State itself is a prime weather worry.

New Englanders historically prided themselves in how they faced the tough and varied weather conditions of their region. I think of this as mostly winter centered but those on the coast had to deal with storms that raged in all seasons. I wonder about about Florida or Texas for example, and if they had their own folklore centering on hurricane or tropical storm survival that they told about themselves. 

There are occupational categories where weather is a primary determinant of success or failure; farmers, so dependent on the abundance or lack of water, or fishermen dependent on being able to get out in their boats are two obvious examples.

I find myself wondering about our regional and collective histories regarding weather. The stories of the Dust Bowl era may be experienced most intensely through the stories written about them, think Grapes Of Wrath. A lesser known book, Issac’s Storm by Erik Larson, tells of the 1908 Hurricane that hit Galveston at a time before much was known about the formation and patterns of such storms. Weather has come a long way. While technology has developed as a highly accurate predictor we are as far away as ever in terms of controlling it. I believe humans thought they would someday be able to do that but as climate change awareness spreads the magnitude of weather systems counter such thoughts Fire has become huge and not just in California and the American West. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods in various singularities and combinations are gaining strength and dominance. Each of us, whatever our environs, need to pay total attention to weather conditions at least some of the time.  

A storm is coming. Even if I hadn’t heard this news on the media, my body felt the air pressure change, the odd oppressive feel of it, alerting me. Such awareness has always been a part of animal life. Grocery store behaviors begin to intensify as soon as a major storm is predicted and, if you are an adrenaline junkie, you can go take part in the frenetic feel of crowded stores and emptying shelves in the few days leading up to what’s coming. I thought of this today feeling and hearing this energy in Trader Joe’s while I also thought that the stuff being taking to checkout may well be endangered if the power goes down. We often don’t incorporate that factor and for many it feels unnecessary as they also stock up on generator fuel. Just how prepared we can get depends on the size and duration of the storm, think Hurricane Katrina or Maria. We are reaching back and at the same time, ahead, to places and times when the unknown of storms was predominant. Back to the Future.

 

#22 Dark Water

Dark Water.

Early morning. This time of year the interval between first light and sunrise seems, somehow, longer. The clouds are low and heavy, hanging clumps of gray and darker gray, and the rain is making gravitational flow patterns on the outside of the windows. The lights coming from what appears to be a tug headed into port offers the only means of measuring time and distance.

Gunmetal. That’s the color of the water, the wave tops in stark white contrast as they break close to shore. The gulls swoop and dive suggesting this rough water—this chop—this non-rhythmic churn—is stirring up sea life, breakfast to these always hungry, always hunting, birds. A lone Common Eider dives below the surface, also seeking food. Why does such darkly shaded water feel angry?

As the rain falls harder my hope is that it will clean the salt spray splats left behind after covering the windows in the latest bout of high and furious ocean. Sheets of rain—nature’s window washing service even in cold months.

The sun will return, just not perhaps today. Light is always needed to contrast and balance this dark.

#20 Whether. Weather.

Whether. Weather.

I’ve called myself a weather junkie for a long time but mostly when I still had cable and could watch The Weather Channel go on endlessly at the first sign of any meteorologic event. Hurricane Katrina was the mother of binge weather reporting, the “big one” that my office colleague and I knew was going to happen sooner or later. So many of us watched it unfold in nearly real time laying the reportage template for all the storms to come. Eventually The-Boy-Who-Cried-‘Wolf’ mode, the tabloid version of weather forecasting fostering serial binge viewership at the slightest possibility of trouble, wore me out along with cable subscription costs hitting the stratosphere. I was done with TV.

Now weather is my daily main event, entertainment in prime and any other time, a front row seat with surround sound and a super duper widescreen. I can watch fronts moving in then receding, rain cascades approaching in sheets of moving shades of gray, lightning bolts jig jagging down into the water. I can watch snow clumps stick to every single window, leaving only peephole opportunities for viewing outside hourly changes.

What is now lacking is the commentary, hyped, informative, or both at the same time. There are radio forecasts of course and blessed NOAA radar in real time, red, green, blue and pink patterns on my electronic screens while the power holds. It’s a bit maddening that many weather apps default to the nearby city often oblivious to close-to-the-water bands of fluctuations and temperature, the outlying microclimates with sharp variations remaining unmeasured, but television weather folk always did annoy me, standing beside urban interstates measuring paltry snowfall amounts when rural inhabitants  were up past their knees in snowdrifts. Weather broadcasters never seem to get to places too far from the convenience of airports. Eventually some person in the outlier regions may post on social media when the transformers are replaced and the power comes back on and, if the conditions are sufficiently extreme, they might show up as video proof at the end of a long website scroll a few days later.

Local progress reports don’t come easily either. Neighbors out here on this point of land that juts out into the sea, stick to themselves. It takes trees blocking roads and individuals with chainsaws helping each other to restore mobility, before contact is made. Pretty much, you are on your own with only the roar of generators all around, competing with the sounds of the storm. There is nothing quite like roaring generators powering houses where no one lives in the winter while we poorer folk are in the dark and cold with their generator roar as background.

“There’s so much weather there!” my daughter reminds me, further validating why her weather junkie Mom is living in the right place. It’s harder to live with however when tossing spoiled food for the second time in a particularly rough week after refrigeration failed. Again.

#18 Frequency.

 

Frequency.

It has turned into a wild night. The rain first came down so lightly I wondered if it would be enough to saturate the dry ground, but a few hours later it is slamming against the front of the house, coming off the ocean in sheets, enough for me to check and latch each window. Now after only an hour or so of sleep, the sound of the storm has pulled me into AWAKE. The urgent roar of the waves pounding the rocks has been translated by my body into cause for alarm. That urgency comes not only from the sounds indicating the size of the waves but also by their frequency which triggered body response even in sleep: alert instead of dreaming, panic instead of calm. 

In what other circumstances does frequency alone signal “Problem”? What else triggers our “too-soon” response? Why have I not noticed frequency-as-a-cause-of-alarm before now? 

Here are some other possibilities that generate frequency alarms: Body Functions. Intense Emotional Responses. Absences. (and their opposite) Visitations. Car Noises. Tweets

Newly aware, I shall pay attention. For now my thoughts struggle behind this wall of panic as the waves continue their fevered pitch.