Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma Journal Part 2

* PART 2: Hurricane Irma journal. *
I have never experienced a hurricane, only the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake, which pales in comparison, although no less frightening or devastating. The aftermath of Irma was more destruction than I could have ever imagined. There was an eerie stillness to each day, whether it be morning or evening. No singing birds, splashing fish or the familiar croak of the tree frogs. Streets once humming with cars, pedestrians and four legged friends were unrecognizable as they sat alone in the unmoving air. It was a deserted feeling as if we were the only humans here.
Where to begin was overwhelming, so we jumped in, first cleaning the foyer ripping out wet and moldy carpet then clearing debris from the yard hauling it to the street. The small group of us who either stayed and weathered the storm or returned the minute we were able, became bonded in a way that can only be described as family. Working together under conditions we would never wish on anyone, yet knowing we couldn’t stop until each was taken care of, felt safe.
It was easy to get side tracked, as I often did, picking up something along the way to or from the garbage, trying to find the missing match to items scattered in the yard, moving and clearing paths around the house and street, an urgency in my mind about how it should look, but no way to move fast enough or with enough strength to accomplish this goal. “Baby steps,” as Scott would say. Picking one area to clean and seeing it through like taking a chainsaw to the fallen trees or pulling bait pens from the canal.
Helping our neighborhood, our friends and family who were more adversely affected, became not a question of “Do you think they need help,” but rather, “How fast can I work and move on to the next project.” Cleaning out refrigerators, shoveling gray mud out of houses, combing through debris to gather valuables all the while wondering, “Will life ever feel normal?”
Every conversation and greeting became, “How did your house make out? What can I do to help?” skipping the salutation and going straight in for a hug. Assuring each other with the unspoken words, “You’re not alone.” If nothing else, I hoped to be an ear, someone others could blow off steam to, yet I still felt helpless, unable to fix the bigger issues such as lack of housing or work.
September 20, 2017 – Jonathan spent the morning cleaning out the water meter boxes for each house on the block as we’d heard water service may be turned on for us today and sure enough, it was! The boil water advisory was still in effect, but without power we couldn’t, so relied heavily on bottled water.
Daily trips to Big Pine for ice and water became the norm as did cold showers since our hot water heater was found in the canal. It was quite refreshing as the heat and humidity in the house was overbearing. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time indoors the first week back or the second or third. You get the idea.
I will never forget the day the Red Cross arrived. Perhaps I speak for others as well when I say the generosity brought me to tears on many occasion. The outpouring of assistance in the form of tools, cleaning supplies, food, clothing and more was beyond anything I could have imagined. They drove through neighborhoods delivering meals as well as set-up tents throughout the Keys giving residents cash cards.
I wish I could remember and thank all of the companies and relief organizations who came and spent time in the keys. Geico provided water while assessing auto damage on the spot, Verizon brought a satellite truck and provided free phones and WIFI inside their air conditioned tent, The Army Corps of Engineers applied blue tarps to those whose roofs were missing or leaking, The National Guard cleaned and hauled debris, Mormon Helping Hands also provided debris removal in teams of thirty or more people moving from street to street in selfless service, Billy Graham Ministries as well as Baptist relief organizations provided food, water, ice and more, The United Way provided gift cards for gasoline and building supplies plus many more.
We were also blessed with strangers who drove from the mainland and delivered supplies door-to-door through the neighborhoods stopping to ask what we needed and how they could help. We directed them to elderly neighbors or those we knew had lost their homes feeling fortunate to have a place to lay our heads each night.
That’s when I listened for the familiar sound of the tree frogs, yet without their favorite trees standing I knew it might be awhile before the familiar high pitched calls would make me sit up in the middle of the night and wonder, “Are they talking?”
Until then, I’ll wait.🌸

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma Journal Part 1

* PART 1: Hurricane Irma journal. *

Well, it’s been one amazing ride these past five weeks! Irma gave us a run for our money, but followed us to Naples where we were hit hard as well, including the shattering of my car’s rear window. Without power, water or Internet service and zero to “spotty” cell service, I gave up on posting to social media focusing instead on how to get a text to friends and family members relying on them to relay what was happening in the outside world while wondering what, if anything, we may have left to return to in the Keys. We stayed a week relying on the kindness of friends waiting to see when US 1 would reopen to residents, but realized it would be awhile as the devastation was indescribable. Without services, we headed to Miami to spend a few days with a new friend, the man we adopted our dog from, Bert. Scott was able to use Internet to fulfill online orders and remain in good standing with the outlets hosting his online stores before turning them off again as we loaded up and headed for home.

We couldn’t stay away from the place we love so much, even after considering a temporary move until things were back to “normal.” It was as if the islands were calling us, waiting for help, hoping friendly faces would return, so we did. Putting our decision to leave the keys for northern ground aside, we loaded the rental van, re-taped the shower curtain over my rear window, loaded up a spunky 9 year-old and two hurricane hounds and set a course for Cudjoe Key.

September 18, 2017 – US 1 had finally reopened to lower keys residents and our anticipation grew with every mile traveled. Loading up on supplies in Homestead, we chased the late afternoon sun trying to beat the curfew and a possible camp out in the van.

A wave of relief came over me as we entered the 18 mile stretch, the familiar blue barriers feeling like open outstretched arms. Then came Key Largo and the signs, “Welcome home lower keys residents, You can’t drown a conch!” brought tears to my eyes. To the sign maker’s, who ever you are, thank you!
Every mile closer to home made my adrenaline rise. We knew what we were facing as family and friends had been sending photos of our place, taking care to empty refrigerators, remove trash, open windows to allow air flow, remove debris so we could park our vehicles and so much more! Thank you Chachi, John, Ginger, Tim, Ron, Charles Fricke, Ken and Tom Fricke!

As the sky turned to dusk, we arrived at our home, the few palms left standing in a mournful state looking over their fallen friends, some hanging over power lines. The beloved mango tree, which had produced the most delicious fruit two times this spring, was leaning almost to the ground its roots half exposed, every leaf brown and brittle. The sapodilla tree in the backyard was entirely uprooted and laying across the fence, its branches entangled in the mango tree as holding one another’s leafy hands in hopes of surviving the storm.

Entering the house we were welcomed by a wave of heat and gray mud in the downstairs foyer. The smell was likened to a mix of sewage and sea grass, but we gladly climbed the stairs to our familiar space. Assessing the damage: shattered window, sagging sheet rock in the living room and sea grass debris, we quickly set-up a space in the living room in which to “camp.”
We’d purchased our own generator and brought twenty-five gallons of gas with us to power fans, the refrigerator and a lamp. The hum of this tiny machine is a sound I will never forget. The neighborhood was filled with this same music, the song of survival.

Words From The Water – Photo 3

I love the beach! I’m lucky to live close enough I can visit often, even everyday, without getting sick of it and once I let go of my obsessive “clean car” idea the sand doesn’t bother me (so much).

Funny, but I find the sound of the waves not only calming, but inspirational. Well, the sound of water moving pretty much anywhere even the kitchen sink. I’m not sure why, but my mind seems to kick into creative gear, ideas emerge, story lines pan out and words are in over drive. Too bad I don’t have pen and paper when most of this inspiration is occurring, but it wouldn’t matter if I did because who can read words dripping off the page?

One way I take the inspiration with me is through photographs. If I’m stuck wondering, “What was that idea I had today?” I look back at the photos and sometimes video. It helps keep me moving forward and at the same time reminds me of where I’ve been.

Being at the beach is a sensation I think everyone should experience at least once in their lives. It’s such an amazing feeling to hear the waves, see them move, experience their power. I would say it’s magnetic, the pull the ocean has on some people, me being one of them. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s like the words float from the sea into my brain. Now, if only I could bottle that and bring it home.

Bees and Me, Photo 2

I took a walk in my grandmother’s backyard and was surprised to hear the buzzing of bees in her Macadamia Nut tree. It was so loud I thought, “There must be a hive up there.” So, I ducked under the branches and hanging blossoms looking high above me, but I couldn’t see anything that looked remotely similar to a hive. Couldn’t see much really, except a lot of branches. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, she’s dumb.” Rest assured, I do know bees sting when guarding their hive I just wasn’t afraid at that moment. Go figure.

Anyway, bees were flying all around me, but were too concerned with the tiny blossoms on the tree to sting me. Good thing because I think I’m allergic to bees. Can’t remember. (Again, not dumb just not afraid.) The bees landed with such precision on the blossoms. There were thousands of them, all over the tree, some open others still closed and tiny! The tiniest blossoms I’ve ever seen. So pretty!

I finally talked a few bees into posing for me, which was great because I was tired of seeing “abdomen” in all of the shots, if you know what I mean. I had to be fast because they were so busy. They hardly ever stopped moving!

Watching their nectar gathering made me think how bees (and all other insects/animals) have a task by nature. They do what they’re supposed to do, constantly. They don’t take a break or ditch out on their bee buddies to watch TV then make excuses later. I realized I need to take a lesson from the bees and keep doing what I do, writing. Whether it’s my nature or not is debatable, but I have to believe it is or it becomes just a hobby. Will I produce a product as sweet as the bees? I can only hope! 🙂

Bee sucking nectar from Macadamia Nut blossom

Moon Love, Photo 1

I know I haven’t posted any photos of my own doing, so here’s the first. It’s probably cliché, being the moon and all, but I still have a fascination with it, the moon. There’s something about it that makes me feel calm. Maybe because it’s mostly visible at night when the world has slowed down a bit (hopefully mine too).

I also find it beautiful glowing in the sky it’s dark patchy landscape easily recognizable. Sometimes I feel like the phases of the moon are a talent show the moon puts on to show me just how cool it is, “Hey! Look at me now!” Yeah, I like the sun too, but you can’t look directly at it and view its awesome glory without threat of blindness. Plus, the sun is HOT! The moon never is, but keeps its cool. I like that.

The moon is also quite romantic. We’ve all read and heard lines like, “I looked at the moon tonight and thought of you,” or “We’ll say goodnight looking at the same moon in different places.” Now can you say that about the sun? How romantic would this sound, “I looked at the sun today and thought of you. Oh and almost burned a hole in my cornea’s.” Not very, but it’s kinda funny. Anyway, I am a hopeless romantic so the moon appears in a few of my stories and on the cover of my YA novelette, Highway 90.

This photo was taken with my Canon Rebel. Call me a cheater, but I stood outside for at least thirty minutes adjusting the shutter speed, aperture and flash exposure so as not to highlight the huge tree hanging in front of me. That’s gotta count for something if not persistence or is that stubbornness?