Wild about wild weather

A neighbor helps remove a little gift from Hurricane Arthur

A neighbor helps remove a little gift from Hurricane Arthur

Hurricane Arthur was modest by storm standards, but still not your everyday weather. Our hurricane season is officially from 1 June to 30 November, but storms of official hurricane size do not happen every year.

I was born during Hurricane Hazel, back when all hurricanes were female, and when the wind picks up, I do, too. My mother, on the other hand, would take shelter, draw the curtains, and turn up the music. She hated wind. I do not know if this is because she gave birth surrounded by floods and power outages, and I came alive in the eye of a storm, but this was one of our many areas of disagreement, in spite of a powerful love.

When Arthur hit the Maine coast many miles south of my village Otter Creek, it had been down-graded to a tropical storm. Our winds were perhaps twenty to thirty miles an hour. It was enough to get my attention and draw me outside to sit and feel the chair shift beneath me, but it was not threatening. Storms, wild weather, loud and screaming wind—they are exhilarating and make me feel electrically charged, pumped up, and raring to go. I know lives can be lost and property destroyed, but instead of fear or the feeling the need to buy batteries and tape my windows, I just want to be out there.

When storms head our way, the media suggests stocking up on food, batteries, storing water, getting medical prescriptions and basically getting ready for Armagedden. I failed to heed their suggestions for surviving hurricane Gloria, made no preparations for the havoc predicted for Y2K, and shrugged at the idea the world was ending with Comet Kohoutek. I have friends who stored 50 gallons of water in one-gallon jugs for Y2K, pretty time consuming. Preparation makes sense, but I never seem able to justify the time. Plus, I am in the fortunate position of having wood heat, an awesome all-weather Bison hand pump on my well, plenty of kerosene lamps, and a root cellar stocked with staples and vegetables. Instead of checklists and worry, I can watch trees bend and sway and breathe negative ions.

Since we are safely at the edge, we can revel in the wildness. Even though we are far from heart of the storm, the winds are fierce and the air electric.

I feel some guilt at getting pleasure from a potentially destructive force of nature, and want no one to be harmed, but I cannot deny its call. It has always been so.

My sister Susan and I ran out of our grandparent’s farmhouse to sit under the giant hydrangea in the front yard. I was maybe seven. As we huddled, the hundred-year old maple was struck by lightening or wind, I am not sure which, but it crashed down in front of us, the branches flattening part of our inadequate shelter. We emerged to look at the majestic fallen limbs, but without fright. The gentle creamy hydrangea blooms had in some way protected us.

A few years later or perhaps a few years before, a storm hit in the middle of a summer heatwave. We were then living in a carefully planned development in an old apple orchard, where the front yards all melted together. A dramatic display of heat and fork lightening lit up the night. Three little girls somehow escaped mom and ran into the night. I was the youngest of three sisters, we had no brothers, and we frequently made up our own games. That night it was run around barefoot and bare naked in the grass of our suburban front lawn. We all had towels, we had just been bathed, and held them high overhead in the wind as we scampered. When the lightening flashed illuminating the lawn we had to squat down and cover ourselves in the over-sized towels, so we would not be seen. I peeked out from my terry cloth cover to see my sisters, pale humps dotted on our lawn.

Now I am inside a house, and safe. The walls creak as the wind buffets it, and outside a tin can is being rolled and bounced, clanking one way, and then another. Far to the South hurricanes mean danger. But I am in Maine, the wind is wild, and although I have a practical respect for the forces of nature, it does not mean I have to hide.

I am safe, and should just go to bed. My husband sleeps. I am going out to play in the wind.

 

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Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.