Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Has Sprung...Finally...

A section of Alma Tadema's 'Spring' favorite painting at the Getty in L.A.)

Spring sprang last month. March 20th marked Ostara, 2017. If you are a person who identifies seasons according to weather patterns, you would've been highly confused here. The confusion would've begun well before Winter was over. Actually, here on the marsh, Winter didn't leave the area until a few weeks or so ago. When the somewhat frosty chill of what is described as 'cold' weather here on the marsh was still hanging in the air, we got hit with early pollen. Very heavy early pollen. Some of the azalea bushes around the condos even started to bloom. The camellia bush by our front...well, it's not really a porch...I'll call it our front 'slab', the camellia bush by our front slab was blooming in the depth of the marshes winter, but it usually does. No shocker there. They are an Evergreen. They dig partial shade. From what I've seen from the last number of years, once they're in a location they dig, they thrive even if it's freezing. Can't say that I necessarily thrive in cold or warmer weather. As I've said many times before, I would be a seriously happy camper if Autumn was the perpetual seasonal state. I love the Fall. I'll cut myself off there as I'll save my mooning over Autumn until it's actually here.

(The marsh)

For a few months the weather was crazy. One day the temperatures warranted warm and fuzzy apparel. The next day there would be t-shirt temperatures. The world outside kept switching back and forth, confusing everyone. Make up your mind, damn it! I got into a routine of having a coat handy every time I opened the front door. I'll just call it 'Schrodinger's Jacket'. I wouldn't know if it was cold or not cold until I opened the front door to check. Now we are approaching the middle of April, and I think it's safe to say that Winter has officially moved on. The days have been warmer, but not too warm. That will come with Summer. If this year's Summer is anything like the last, it'll be a real scorcher.

(Less of a shade on my favorite marsh spot since hurricane Matthew came through)

( the bird...)

Now that the days are longer and the weather a bit warmer, my opportunities for strolls after I get home from the mine have expanded. No, I can't really get out to hang with the marshes brand of nature when I have the closing shift at the mine...well, when it's a full moon...then I go out for some photos...however, I do have more openings to get out to decompress. It is very quiet here on the marsh. The only prevalent noises from neighbors are noises from the wind, the birds, the marsh neighbors. In my favorite spot on the marsh's edge, I can sometimes hear the *thup, thup* of car tires as Tybee residents head home over the Bull River Bridge. During evening strolls I can sometimes hear the clink of dishes and murmuring of unintelligible conversation as I pass some condos. So different from living in the city...from living in L.A. No helicopters buzzing the neighborhood. No police car or fire truck sirens. No hot tempered arguments of neighbors yelling at one another. Just the sounds of life. Of calm life. Calm is good. I dig calm.

The cattails that line the marsh edge have gone to seed. The thicker part of the reed gets an appearance of pulled cotton, clumpy and fuzzy. Much different than looking like a hot dog skewered on the end of a very long stick. They grow like crazy, and spread through their rhizomes (root system). They grow rather densely along the marshes edge like a tall leafy hedge. The grounds crew will come along and lay waste to all of the thick foliage that grows along with the cattails, but their roots systems bring them back thicker and fuller than the last time. Cattails are quite resilient. They also make it difficult for other marsh plants to grow in their proximity. If you're adventurous you could give eating cattails a go. Sections of the leaves can be eaten like a salad, and the younger "flowers" (brown hot dog looking section) can be roasted. Don't think I'll be trying that any time soon though.

('Tent' moth)
I always see something special on my walks. Whether it's a heron, a fairy circle of mushrooms, or cloud formation. One furry fellow I came across reminded me of Summers when I was younger. A Tent Caterpillar. Back then I had no idea what they were called, I just knew that they were soft, and I liked to pick them up to have them walk on my hands. I would also give them green leaves to munch on. The little guy pictured above appeared to be on his own. I tried to pick him up to move him to a tastier looking tree or bush, but he was very active. At one point he was hanging half off a leaf flailing his legs around. Apparently, it meant that he was agitated...something that escaped me as a child. I remember them leaving yellow "deposits" that I always thought to be caterpillar poo. It turns out it is a defense substance that is poisonous. They are said to be poisonous to horses, and are known to cause miscarriages in mares. Not entirely the fuzzy little play things I remember. As with all caterpillars, Tent's turn into moths. Not as beautiful as the Luna moths (I had the luck to see one up close right outside my front door a few years's a link to that post: ) the 'Tent' caterpillar moth is still cool looking.

(An open seed pod on one of the Sago Palms by the condos swimming pool fence)
So far, my pictures in this post are from Ostara day. Had meant to post them before now, but the mine has been absorbing a lot of my time. Once I get back into a regular swing on here things will get posted in a more timely fashion. As for the picture of the open seed pod above, I always swing by these Sago palms to see if the seed pods have returned. They are so alien looking. I always envision tentacles shooting out of the center. *snerk*

The last three photos were taken three days before April's Full Pink Moon. On my drive home from the mine I was coming over the bridge I always cross as I pass through Thunderbolt. I reached the top and saw Luna hanging up there in the blue sky. I love the Moon. I try to catch the bright orb of the Full Moon in a night sky every month, but I really dig seeing the Moon during the day. Since my current camera doesn't play well with the night (it's not a camera you can really mess with shutter speed on), it does take beautiful shots of a day time Moon. It shows more of the surface details.

When I got home I took a few minutes to begin my decompression, and then grabbed my camera. Most of my posts that have my pictures involved include at least one photo of my spot by the marsh. A spot that is now not as shady as it once was. (Thanks, Matthew.) There were about five tree deaths due to the hurricane in that spot alone. Really sad. It's not as shady as it was, but I'm not going to abandon it. There are still some surviving trees. They served as great props for these shots.

April has passed the halfway mark, and it doesn't seem possible. In a couple of months the year will be half over. Amazing. To quote Dorothy Parker: "Time doth flit, oh shit." I think in truth that everything flits if you let it. There's still plenty of 2017 to slow down and get my bearings. Falling into that rut of being a stagnant member of the rat race is so easy to do. Work, eat, sleep. Not a pattern I want to keep repeating. My creative brain has to get back in charge. Yeah, working in a frame shop has it's creative elements, but that doesn't cut it. Looking to my right I can see about ten projects I have been wanting to do. The time is ripe to stop the wanting and to get to the doing.

Summer is getting closer, and the days are getting warmer. Flowers are blooming, and mosquitoes are annoying.

Tomorrow is another day, and luckily it is also a day off.

A productive one it will be.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Recalling a Hurricane & Starting Fresh...

(In the day or two leading up to the hurricane, there were groups of herons everywhere...
apparently, they were looking for more shelter with the approaching storm

For months now I have wanted to get back into my blog. It has served as a means of expression. Of keeping in touch with some, while establishing fresh connections with others. Then there is its therapeutic side. By posting thoughts, feelings, and even my photos. Posts about things that interest me. It all leads to the positive vibes of feeling more grounded without what feels like the weight of the world bearing down on one's shoulders.

If I take a moment to reflect on what has taken me so long to start posting again...well...where do I begin? Having a full time gig at the mine has taken quite a bit of wind out of my sails. I can't blame anyone but 'moi' for that as I've allowed the stress of the work day to pull me down. If I push that to the side...well...where DO I begin? Sitting here at the computer, I have swept aside some mental cobwebs. It didn't really take much thought to decide on the last big event we had here on the marsh. Back in September of 2016...

Hurricane Matthew.

Here on the marsh of Wilmington Island just east of Savannah, we were going to be in the path of the mass destruction being imposed by hurricane Matthew. Have we been in the path of hurricanes before? Oh yeah, but Savannah sits back in a coastal divit. The most we usually experience are some winds and rain. The worst always skates on past us.

(This fallen limb was crawling with black ants that appeared to call this hole
as the door to their digs)
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up with rainstorms and thunder storms. Even the occasional tornado. But I never got to experience the power of a tornado first hand. I moved to the west coast in my mid-twenties, so I left inclement weather behind me for about 18 years. Los Angeles was hit with an El Nino here and there that would dump a lot of rain, and cause flooding and mudslides, but it was not the usual. Hot and dry was the usual. The calm steady rain, and the more angry grumbling sky of a thunderstorm...I missed them. Rainy weather and tree filled forests. Autumn, as well. Can't forget about Autumn, my favorite season. I always knew that I would eventually move back to the east coast and the southern weather here. Savannah is the place. Forests - Check. Autumn - check. Rainstorms - check. Not until I moved back to Georgia did I realize just how much of a storm fanatic I have become.

I'm going to be honest and say that every time a hurricane has churned and swirled its way in our direction, I have hoped that we would get some major action. No 'doom and gloom' effects, of course. In September of last year my hopes were answered, but sadly there was quite a bit of damage for many residents, here on Wilmington and other areas. Tybee is a few miles away on the Atlantic, the front lines of the storm. Things would get fierce. Before I get too ahead of myself, I'll share a little of the lead up to Matthew's arrival.

We were watching the TV coverage religiously. The fact that the coverage had taken over the airwaves here kind of forced the blow-by-blow reporting. For me it just became the backdrop to whatever else I was doing. The same reports were repeated over and over, with the occasional update. These days news coverage is a competition with each organization trying to beat the other to the next nugget of news. Add to that the fact that weather reports are something I always take with a grain of salt (although I have been addicted to the 'Weather Channel' in the past). Weather in general is so unpredictable, and a hurricane would definitely qualify as unpredictable. Would it be the destructive force that the weather people were excited about? Would have to wait and see.

I continued to report to the mine for my shifts because I was scheduled to be there. If the store was open, I was there. I'm sure they would've understood if I called out because of the storm as I do live on an island on the coast. Evacuations had begun, but in my area they weren't mandatory...yet. Glenn and I decided early on that we would be riding the storm out. I had no problem with that. I had heard all of the reports, but there was a side of me that wanted to witness things first hand.  Crazy? maybe. We didn't really have anywhere to go. Besides, the roads leading out (and there are only a couple) were going to be utter chaos. Evacuations in the area were starting to go mandatory, and on the last day I reported to the mine Wilmington was a mandatory evacuation area. I reported in to prep the frame shop for the possibility of flooding, etc. The go ahead had been given by the powers that be that we were to close up shop. The storm shutters were put across the front of the store, and we all headed home. I got back to my digs around 1:00 in the afternoon. I'm blanking a bit on actual dates, but I believe the store closed up the Wednesday before the storm really hit us, which was on that Friday night.

One thing I noticed about those couple of days leading up to the hurricane were the herons. We always see herons here on the marsh.  Generally I don't see more than a couple at a time. Flying by, sitting on the dock remnants, or poking their beaks into the mud when the tide is out looking for food. In those days leading to the arrival of the hurricane I saw large groups of them hanging out in trees, or riding the winds. It appeared that they were coming inland a bit. I also saw hawks riding the winds with the herons. They weren't stupid. They were being cautious like the rest of us.

When I got home from the mine things were beginning to feel a bit surreal. The number of cars parked around the condos was virtually nil. Many were obeying the evacuation. Except for us, the only other residents I knew to still be hanging around were our immediate neighbors on the right, Anthony and Michael (brothers). The occasional police car would drive through checking things out. Although there was a mandatory evacuation in effect, they couldn't force us to leave. Our local news stations had started addressing aspects of their reports to those of us who were going to stick things out. We were in for the duration. We knew power would go out eventually - I made sure to buy batteries for my portable radio, the battery powered lanterns, and flashlights. Unlike others in the area, we had power until Friday night. The wind outside was lashing everything about, and we had a little rain here and there. Reports were that we were going to get hit hard Friday night, so we were bracing ourselves. We were braced for flooding. We are relatively close to the marsh edge, but we have a tidal creek behind the condo that was no more than six feet away from the screened in porch. I had never seen it get up to the top edge of the bank before, but we were looking at that as a real possibility.

In the couple of days leading up to what was supposed to be the hurricane's peak, it wasn't as stormy as I would've thought. We had seriously strong winds, but not a whole lot of rain. I kept checking the tide because of the flooding reports. Glenn and I expected the water level to get pretty high, but it wasn't any higher than a normal high tide (including tides high enough to cover the causeway out to Tybee). Actually, at one point the water was really low. It was as if the hurricane was sucking the water away from us instead of pushing it inland. Needless to say, we were quite relieved to see that the flood warnings weren't going to play out. I stayed up as late as I could Friday night, but had to eventually drag myself off to bed. The power was on when I drifted off. It would be a different story the next morning.
(Boat owners moving their boats...the 'Bull River Yacht Club' is just a few blocks from my digs by the Bull River Bridge)

(The marsh side picnic table that I visit and photograph from time to time...I've been know to sit there for a spell during one of my photo's very peaceful there...was happy to see it made it through the hurricane unscathed)

The first day without power didn't really feel that terrible. My tune would change later. It wasn't until I walked outside that the hurricane's effects really sunk in. It was a mess. A few trees at the end of the building had fallen, a couple of them on our neighbors truck. Of course, Michael's truck was totalled. Glenn's truck was fine. My Audi was in the shop, so I assumed it was okay...although I didn't know the status of the mechanic's shop area. 'Two Nuts & A Bolt' is just up the street from the mine. As is usual with me, when I headed outside I had my camera at the ready. In the few days leading up to the big event I had used my phone to go live on Facebook. To chronicle things a bit for those in other states. At a particularly windy and rainy section of the approaching storm I streamed via my phone what I thought was a good bit of footage, including a beautiful blue heron just a feet away from me under the dock remains on the edge of the marsh. I would discover that I had the phone pointed the wrong way and had instead recorded some rather unflattering footage off myself getting drenched and blown away. Yeah, I deleted that. On a good day I hate even having my picture taken...*shudder*...

After having a walk around the condos, we hopped in Glenn's truck to go check on his brother's house on the far side of the island. Things were really hit hard in his neighborhood. There were homes that had trees fall on them, but all I could see were the fallen trees. I'm a lover of trees and it was so sad to see all of the tall majestic ones that had been killed by the storm. The only activity I saw were a few homeowners trying to pick up the pieces of what was left of their yards. Wearing work gloves and hauling branches to the edge of the street. Cutting through tree trunks and limbs with chainsaws. We had to stop and try other routes a few times because streets were blocked by fallen debris or electrical lines, but we eventually made it to Jeff's house and everything looked fine.

(Crude, but it worked)
The first night of no power (Saturday) was tough. When the power goes out here the world becomes black as pitch. We had lamp light and candles which really aren't that effective. I am a candle addict, so I have a bunch of scented jar candles. Candle light was in heavy supply, but
with the various scented jar candles burning I developed massive headaches. The various aromas co-mingling was beyond cloying. (Couldn't burn a candle for awhile after that, but I think I'm past the rough part.) In the dim light I kept wondering how people were able to function all those years ago when modern conveniences weren't around. For sustenance, I got creative. Our stove is electric, so cooking didn't seem to be an option. Then I got an idea. I put half a dozen tea light candles on a saucer, created a chimney effect with a piece of aluminum foil, and took a cooling rack that I put on two overturned ramekins. Voila...scrambled eggs. It worked really well as a makeshift cooking stove. Eggs and soup were the only things I used it for. I would take a few trips out and about in search of ice, and non-perishables, but that first day or so things were dead. Gradually a couple of the businesses opened back up. The very first was 'Chu's', a gas station, mini-mart and liquor store a block from the condos. Mr. Chu had opened the front door to let some policemen use his facilities, people started coming in and buying stuff, so he just stayed open. He had a generator or two, and also had a bunch of ice. He was the first one. Then my coffee cravings started. Thank you Publix. After driving around the island I saw that Publix was open on my way back home. They had complimentary coffee brewing (back-up generator), so I grabbed two cups. That was some damn good coffee.
(My neighbor's truck...the official diagnosis was 'totaled'...a tree also claimed the corner of
the building that is pictured)

(A different angle on my favorite spot by the marsh next to the dock a lot of fallen limbs and a few trees)

(My usual approach to the marsh by the dock was so sad to see quite a few of my tree friends fallen)

Around Sunday residents started to return. Activity picked up as neighbors walked around surveying the damage. Electrical workers from other states were pouring in to help get our power up, so we had various trucks from Alabama power around. On one of my trips out I saw a couple of men with hard hats talking. I slowed and rolled the window down, calling out, "Thank you!" They turned smiling and said, "Yes, Ma'am!" (On a side note: I've been back in the south for awhile now and I still can't get used to people calling me "ma'am"...anyway...)

I got a text from my boss saying that people were reporting in to see how things fared in the storm, but that we wouldn't be opening up yet. If we were able to do some things with the store closed, we would. I reported in. It would give me a reason check things out closer in to town. When I got to the mine only a couple of co-workers had shown up and the power was still out. Needless to say, I wasn't there long. Not much you can do in the dark. So I headed back home with a portable phone charger my boss loaned me. I hadn't been able to charge my phone on Glenn's truck because his cigarette lighter wasn't working. It wasn't until my neighbor Anthony started running the generator he had and let me charge my phone via it that I was able to do any real communicating with the outside world. I used the charger and then went outside to wander the grassy area across from the condo looking for at least one bar. There were a number of other residents doing the same thing. A connection was possible, so I took quite a bit of time to send texts to my family outside of Georgia. It felt good to let them know that I hadn't floated away with Matthew. A couple of hours later our power came on. So we had about three and half days without power. Not bad considering it would be more than a week for many people out here.
(I came across this beauty when I was out walking in search of bars on my cell phone...tried to Google what kind he/she was, but didn't have any luck)

(I almost didn't see this marsh resident...since there isn't a collar present, I assume it to be one of the feral cats that live in the wooded areas...we have quite a lot of them here)

Things took a week or two to reach what was the new norm here on the marsh. The tree parts that were strewn everywhere were eventually hauled away, but it did take some time. When I would walk outside the trunks and limbs looked like corpses to me. Especially the ones at the marsh edge by the dock remains. Not meaning to elicit any eye rolls, but those trees were friends I would visit while on my strolls. It was sad to see them broken apart.

Tybee Island had warnings out for Trick or Treaters at Halloween because there were still piles of limbs and such along the roads, which were prime hiding spots for 'critters'. I doubt anyone has any worries of another hurricane hitting us any time in the near future. As I mentioned earlier, we usually get passed by. On the flip side of that there are definite climate changes happening on our planet, so who knows what effects that will have. Maybe another hurricane will hit us in the next few years. Maybe the next one will cause more serious mayhem.

So that is my much belated report on hurricane Matthew here on the marsh. It's also my launch point for getting back into things on my blog. Expect more 'musings on the marsh...'.