A Little Something from Edie Clark
September 28, 2015Dear Newsletter Subscriber September 2015
This month’s essay, “Weather or Not” was published in September 2000. May we also bring your attention to a new video you might be interested in – about Edie’s life on “Mary’s Farm,” produced by Yankee magazine and offered here. This link will take you to the video. http://www.yankeemagazine.com/video/marys-farm-septoct-2015
And, finally, the new book, As Simple As That, should have a live link for ordering in about a week. Please watch for notification. Have a happy day.
Weather or Not
New England is not known for its hurricanes. We had our 1938 doozy, which had been predicted as nothing more than “strong winds.” Bricks, firewood, even apples from the ripening trees became bullets, puncturing walls, felling cattle. After the storm had passed, farmers one hundred miles inland told of saltwater streaks on their windows. Nearly 700 people were killed by this unforecast nightmare. 300 million trees were lost or damaged, giving rise to the term “hurricane lumber.”
With each hurricane season that comes, there lurks the possibility of a rerun. The weather channels track them, the Glorias and the Bobs, as if they were the criminally insane, escaped from their hold. On the nightly news, forecasters pinpoint the storm, days, sometimes weeks away, give it a name and mark its progress. Like an unfolding drama, we watch the great wheel of catastrophe that rolls up out of Africa, careens through the Caribbean and wobbles onward up the East Coast. With the camera’s eye, the TV tells the story, so far. In the tropics, roofs lie scattered. Palm trees bend and touch the ground. Waves crash through living rooms. But Septembers come and go and the storms blow away or change course before they reach us here in southwestern New Hampshire.
Last year, though, they felt sure we were in for it. It was early September, a beautiful mild time here. We had not yet had a frost. The air was close. Sitting outside in the evening still seemed like the best idea we could think of. It seemed much too early to carry in the lawn furniture and evacuate the porch. But Floyd, an enormous coil of thick clouds with a hole in the center, was on every channel we can get. “This is a huge storm,” the forecasters admonished. And the map showed its fury could reach from Maryland to Maine.
Inside, I flicked on the evening news. Aerial photos showed a traffic jam leaving the coast of North Carolina like a line into infinity. Heavy surf crashed through the kitchens of oceanside cottages and flattened garages.
In my TV-charged imagination, I pictured uprooted trees and felled power lines; my innocent lawn furniture became lethal weapons. And so in came the chairs. And the tables and the birdhouses and feeders. Even the wind chimes, which are made of clay and have the contemplative sound of Buddhist bells, were taken in. Like a bankrupt cafe, our summery outdoor living space went dead. I walked around the house and barn one last time and on the final circuit, hefted the birdbath and set it in a horse stall in the barn and latched the doors.
That night, it rained. There was a bit of wind. And, in the morning, the sun lit up the garden. Could that have been it? On the television, the big wooly wheel of Floyd was turning toward the Maritimes. That evening, listening to the radio, I heard a man who had evacuated from Florida say he would never, never leave again, no matter if he had to be arrested. His home in Florida was completely untouched by Floyd, which collided with the coast of North Carolina and then veered out to sea. The people who suffered most were the inland farmers of North Carolina who were completely unprepared for the flooding that followed the storm. It rained for days and their houses filled like empty buckets. In spite of the days and days of watchful advisement, no one warned this would happen.
Do we really know how to do anything but photograph the weather? In the clear, post-Floyd morning air, I set the chairs outside again and hung the feeders and the wind chimes. There would be another month of summer, surely. I carried dinner outside on trays and we ate into the warm darkness, to the sound of the crickets. I felt a sense of relief mixed with sadness for those who had been so devastated by the unpredicted floods. A week or so later, I woke in the night to the howl of high winds. Rain rushed against the windows with hurricane force. The house timbers creaked and wind chimes rang wild. In the morning, the lawn chairs were scattered in the field, as if from a night of reckless partying. My wind chimes lay in pieces on the ground. The forecast had been for rain, some wind.