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Wasn't That a Mighty Storm?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wasn't that a mighty storm?
Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning
Wasn't that a mighty storm
Blew the people all away.

This Tom Rush song has been one of my anthems since Saturday, June 30.  I sing it over and over, just that couplet, as I work. On Friday we were in Bremen, Maine, and I was romping around a butterfly meadow with our new teenaged friends Corey and Ben and Hunter and Jetta and Saphire, among others.
The weather was doing this:

 I had just seen two life butterflies on the same daisy plant--a Northern Crescent and a Harris' Checkerspot, and Corey had identified them for me, and I was about as thrilled and happy as I get. 
Let's do some thrilled and happy:

My life Northern Crescent.

My life Harris' Checkerspot.

Two life butterflies on the same plant. Wow.

I didn't know it, but at the same time I was so thrilled and happy, a storm was brewing up along the shore of Lake Michigan and it had big plans for the Upper Midwest. It would travel down from northwest to southeast at 90 miles an hour, with what was essentially a brief, violent, several hundred mile wide linear hurricane (technically a derecho, with violent straight-line winds) and it would wipe out trees and power lines and pieces of homes; it would remove roofs and topple whatever was in its way from Michigan to Virginia. Which was considerable.

We couldn't get cell reception on the island and of course there were no televisions or newspapers or radios which is the whole point of a place like Hog Island so we were innocent of what was happening to our home. The storm hit our home at 6:27 pm Friday, June 30. That's when the Poll Parrot clock in the kitchen stopped. Saturday morning we finally came off island and got a cell message from our dear housesitter Monica who, now that Charlie Macaw is gone, just stops in to feed the turtles and fish and water the bonsais. And all she said was, "This is Monica. Please call me."

That didn't sound good to me. That sounded like something that's so bad you can't say it over the phone. So while we were waiting on our breakfast in a little cafe in Damariscotta, surrounded by hundreds of pounds of luggage and our tired kids, I called and Monica said, "Oh Julie. There was a horrible storm, but your house is OK. Your house is OK and I don't know how to tell you this but your greenhouse is gone."

And she started crying.

I didn't cry but this fast reel of images started flashing across my mind, gathered over the twelve or so years I'd been enjoying that little greenhouse. Images of it stuffed to capacity in April, waiting to be emptied of its fecund treasure.

Images of neat pots of the geraniums I love most and always say I can't live without: Frank Headley, with his icy white leaf edges and salmon single blooms. Grey Sprite. Rosina Read. Little various abutilons and mallows and cacti and whatever. As long as it has a bloom and will thrive in that small sunny space, it had a home with me.

Apparently, it helps to be pink to be included in Zick's Roster of Favorite Plants. 

I look at these images, taken over the last decade, and remember how the greenhouse healed me. How I could suddenly get that winter lump in my throat and just get up and march down and clear the ice away and kick the cinder block aside and open that door and enter a humid, peaty, fragrant little room of salvation. There was really only room enough for one person in there. 

You didn't need any more than one person in there. One person and her plants.

I never opened the door without saying, "Hello, ladies!" It was the plants that made the place, the plants and the sun and the warmth all winter and the smell of gardenia, jasmine and heliotrope when a temperate Ohioan had no right to be smelling those things. The eye-hurting magenta blooms of bougainvillea in January. Luxuries which became necessities.

Now, I always emptied the Pod by May 1 and planted everything out in planters and baskets. So nothing was inside it but some baker's racks and a little gas heater. 

Which is a good thing because that storm I told you about blew my Pod to smithereens.

 Took the mulberry tree while it was at it.

 And took about a third off Liam's willow, which is only twelve but is one hell of a piece of biomass. Even a third of it took us all morning to cut up and pile and clear away. Now you can see right into the tree. I wholeheartedly approve of this piece of surgery. It's always been full of birds and now we can actually see them, and the part that would have eventually broken off and fallen onto our house is gone. So for that I thank the storm, that mighty, heartless storm.

I think differently about trees close to the house now. I don't ever want trees close to the house, not big ones. That's another reason to love birches. They don't get big enough to ruin much when they come down.


We cleaned up the bits of Pod and had to throw away the frame and footers, they were so badly twisted. The ceiling was smashed, so all we have are the sides, and we aren't sure what we should do with those. It seems to me that any kind of frame we'd try to build around a geodesic dome would be more than a couple of bird writers could engineer. So there it lies, in a neat stack next to a silent, powerless house. The Garden Pod was a prototype that never went into production, so there's no hope of finding the manufacturer and getting a replacement frame. It's shot, kaput, blown away. Someone with more brains and time than we have could probably build something using the walls, which are nice double thermopane plastic. Oh, it was a beautiful greenhouse. If you're out there, make yourself known. We've no room to store something we can't use.

We're ending our sixth day without power, breaking our previous outage record of five days. I'm sitting in a town park composing this post, waiting for the scissorgrinder cicadas to start their evening song. It's cooler here than in the house. The incessant heat brings on a kind of lassitude and eventually a mild despair that is a strong deterrent to blogging, hence the silence. Besides, there is a lot of work to do in the aftermath of a storm. We're tired.

We started throwing food away last Sunday morning and I was still at it the evening of July 4. The last to be cleaned out was the huge chest freezer in the basement. Everything had to be thrown away.  I documented it in a series of artful photos. I call this Cornish Hens, Mango, Potstickers and Seafood Blend.

And I call this Nine Degrees of Suppuration.

  At the end of the second day of cleaning it out, I decommissioned the chest freezer right then and there. By the time I had sopped up all the reeking frozen bird juice and blueberry and popsicle drippings in the bottom, by the time I'd disinfected every surface, I had decided to make it a suitcase storage unit instead of a vault where good food goes to die. Lord knows we have suitcases to store. They don't stay unpacked for long. I mean to change that. When you're gone all the time, these things tend to happen.

So I alternate between singing Mighty Storm and Pieces of April, an old classic by David Gates and Bread which came to me as we were picking up pieces of my greenhouse. The subconscious is a beautiful thing.

So was the Garden Pod.


How cruel mother nature can be. I wish you all best wishes as you live without power for a while and clean up.

(On a happier note, that photo of the checkerspot and pine elfin is lovely!)

I'm sorry, Julie.

For those few of you who may not be visitors to both JZ's blog and Murr Brewster's snortworthy posts, or who might have missed Murr's recent amazing bit of doggerel on this subject, here you go:

Seriously--anyone who can find a way to use the word (is it a word?) snorgling, not to mention the mastery of the ABBA rhyme scheme, had me at "Gather 'round, kids"!!

And the world without a safe haven for Julie's floral ladies, well, that's just not right, don't we all know it?


P.S. Apologies, Murr, if this constitutes blogging piracy...

Posted by KHMacomber July 5, 2012 at 6:33 PM

My son is in West Virginia working at a boy scout camp. They got hit pretty hard, too. Some broken limbs among the campers which was a lot of excitment for my paramedic boy, but other than that everyone is okay. Very scarey few days though. I am sorry about your pod, but happy the house is okay.

so glad house, and family, and critters are safe and sound, while awaiting power.
Crazy weather, one suspects, is with us for the foreseeable future :-(

So sorry about your greenhouse, damaged trees and the contents of your freezer. Somehow, maybe it's the constant singing, but you've managed to turn your tragedy into a ballad of its own. Six days without power would have me out of the singing mode for sure.

Posted by Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 4:47 AM

So sorry to hear of the garden pod losing it's life. Always loved the pictures of it as your cleaned it out in the spring. Thankful that your beautiful house was spared. Hoping you have your electric back soon, if not already. Jeanne

Posted by Jeanne Ritchie July 6, 2012 at 4:51 AM

So sorry about your greenhouse, Julie - that's heartbreaking. We got hit with the same storm a couple hours after you, and it was pretty darn scary! We were lucky enough not to lose power for more than a few minutes, and only had minor damage, but we had three nests with baby birds come down in our front yard. We spent most of Saturday morning trying to reconstruct nests and cobble together some boxes that we could secure them back into the trees they came out of.

We found one naked little mourning dove baby (I don't know if there were any others, but we never found any more), robins (one dead and one alive) and newly hatched brown thrashers (one dead and two alive). All the babies we found alive have managed to pull through - the robin fledged and left the nest already, but the others are still looking good and being cared for by their parents. The thrasher parents aren't very grateful, though - they've decided to hold a grudge against my husband for messing with their babies, and they start fussing as soon as he comes out fo the house now. He even got pecked on the head when he came too close a few days ago!

Oh, my, what a pain! Our daughter and family were in Acadia Park in Maine when it hit. It was wild from what we heard.

How sad to lose your treasured greenhouse and what a PITA to be without power so long. Hope it is all better soon.

Very sad to hear this. I hope you're back to normal--and have some kind of new, even better, greenhouse--soon.

I am so sorry about your wonderful greenhouse, but as always, you remain an inspiration. Thank you for your thoughtful writings.

That stinks! What a heartbreak. Hope your power comes back soon, the heat breaks, and all the happy memories from your greenhouse carry you through until another one rises to shelter your favorite plants.

I am so sorry about the loss of your greenhouse. It was truly a sanctuary, and I hope you can build another soon. You deserve such a room of your own.


Posted by Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 6:08 AM

Hearing about this storm from someone whose home experienced it is much different than the 2 minute (2 seconds?) TV newsstory. Your Pod was beautiful, but it was beautiful because you made it so. It left you when it was empty--small blessing--and you had taken the beauty outside! I'm sure you will build another room of one's own. You have this amazing coping strength! Take good care.

Here's Murr's poetic plea:

Gather 'round, kids, and attend to my sonnet
about Julie Zickefoose and her late Pod;
that's her greenhouse, that somehow got crosswise with God,
Who uprooted a tree and then flang it right on it.

You don't take it personal. That would be silly:
there's no single person's a target of wind.
It doesn't mean Julie has trespassed or sinned
by protecting the fuchsia or wint'ring the lily.

That's just how things go. But there's things we can manage:
replacing a Pod that's been felled by a tree
for a woman who gives us so much, and for free?
We can do that. And so I appeal to her fannage:

Let's go to her blog. You've all been there before
to learn how to safely relocate a snake
with a pillowcase, ladder, sheer balls, and a rake;
or discover how swallows can open a door;

or a way to put corpulent bats on a diet
until they are streamlined and ready for flight.
There's a donation button right there on the right,
and to show her we're grateful, I think we should try it.

For Zick, and her Pod that's irreparably riven,
for all we have learned about bird-eating frogs,
and busted-up turtles, and snorgling dogs,
here's a way to give back some of what we've been given.

If we all band together, it won't take a lot.
We can go there and chip in a five or a ten,
or whatever, to shelter that now-homeless wren
that kept nesting there, in the geranium pot.

Here's a link to her blog. It's right there at the bottom.
Her friends will show up, so let's show her she's got 'em.

Posted by Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 6:45 PM

Wow, I wasn't quite prepared for the smashedness of it all. I'm so sorry. I'm grateful to have gotten a chance to duck inside and appreciate it.

Julie, I hope you'll consider investing in a generator. At least it would save your perishable food if you lose power like that again.

Posted by pickles July 7, 2012 at 4:19 AM

Julie! This is Jane your camper friend from Hog Island. So sorry to hear about your greenhouse!!!

Great to meet you and your fabulous family!!!

So sorry the greenhouse is gone! So glad the house is ok! We also had to toss everything from our freezer. That was one brutal storm!

I'm still playing catch-up after our big annual horse-camping trip (if you want to come see my post), so am just reading this. I am so sorry for what you have lost, and so thankful for what you did not. Hugs from NW Oregon!

When I heard about the storm, I thought of you guys. I am so glad you are all safe but so sorry about the lovely greenhouse. Knowing you, something creative will come out of this "blow." All the best from the cooler than usual NW. The weather keeps getting weirder . .

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