But millions of people in America’s mid-Atlantic will forever think of her first and foremost as a hurricane, of course.
“Aren’t you glad you came down in July?” went my sister’s text at a moment when she was still paying close attention to weather and assessing the threat to her South Carolina home, considering staying put as a viable option. It’s not as easy for her 13-year-old Lab to travel as it once was; best to let sleeping dogs lie when possible. Still, she told me everything was packed and ready to go except for the car snacks. Just in case. With 1989’s category 5 Hugo a defining moment in her life, she knows better than to take chances. And because of her erstwhile life as a pilot, and then as a flight instructor and owner of a flight school, she has all kinds of groovy apps with precise weather data and spaghetti-model-y maps all over the place. When I check in with her before an approaching hurricane, she merely tells me the weather people are ‘mumbling,’ which always makes me giggle. This time, she and her neighbors were right to stay put.
Meanwhile up here in Vermont, the only thing Florence managed to squeeze out was a few inches of rain. We had a thorough drenching, though, and the otherwise calm Walloomsac River that cuts across the back of our property morphed into a raging torrent for a couple of days. On fair weather days when it flows softly, the Walloomsac recalls so many of the mountain streams in the Smokies, the kind you can simply wade across. The water burbles its way past us cool and clear and you can see the smooth, round rocks on the bottom, here and there forcing pretty ripples on the river’s surface as it tumbles across them.
But during the spring thaw, when all the snow in the higher elevations begins to melt and run off—or during a storm like Florence, a slow-moving tropical depression by the time she worked her way inland and set her sights on the Northeast—the Walloomsac turns deadly. Slip down the steep bank into its waters and you’d be swept right away in the high-flowing whitewater current. “You’d die,” mused Chef David one day. “How?” I wanted to know. “You’d hit your head on a rock,” he said matter-of-factly. I know better than to let Scout off leash on those kinds of days, this stubborn doggie who has taken to exploring the river bank like a mountain goat in search of new smells, or in pursuit of a small critter who had the audacity to leer at him from a rocky hiding place along the bank. The dog is not thinking of river currents and rocks, and as such forgets the meaning of the words, “Scout: Come!” It is only the panic in my voice that has any kind of leverage with him on these occasions.
Eventually there will be a fence. Eventually. The one we’ll install across the back of our property will go just behind the barn and will parallel and mimic the cheerful picket fence out front. We’ll still be able to enjoy the river, and maybe we’ll put in a gate, in case we want to venture closer sometimes. But a certain water-loving dog will not be able to get himself into a watery pickle because his human decided to trust him off leash. (“He loves the wading pools, but he’s pretty clumsy,” observed the ladies one recent afternoon at dog camp.)
As for the rest of our fence project, it is coming right along. The Chef finished the first part of it last weekend, all except for the landscaping—which is to say, mulch. And there’s still time for flowering annuals this fall. He was a tad annoyed with me for shooting this section before we’d gotten around to that part. And if it looks a bit serpentine, that’s because it is: a couple of sections bend this way and that to accommodate a tree that more or less abuts the property line, near a spot where a posthole is situated (the Chef had a time with the tree roots, and was as respectful as he could be of them).
I am especially pleased with the little copper hats on the fence posts. They turned out well, I think, and in time I hope will develop the beautiful blue-green patina copper gets, like this copper on our roof:
That was last weekend. Today the Chef is busy replacing the section of fence a storm blew out last spring, between the garage and the barn, long overdue for a refresh. Hurricanes do occasionally make their way to us (see Irene), but the storm that knocked over the fence was simply a squall come to call when winter had overstayed its welcome and simply refused to budge. Even with our fence row damage, we fared better than others with the 70 mph gusts that day. The new fence, aside from being properly elevated so it won’t begin to rot from the bottom up as the old one did, is held fast with much better hardware than the old stuff, insists the Chef, who threw out his back a couple of days ago, now wincing in pain as he stoops to retrieve a dropped screw.
On this side of the back yard, where a smaller tree is a bit more intrusive, we’ll need to be more inventive to accommodate it, removing a few of the slats where the tree will become one with the fence. Neato. We’ll also need to paint the side of the barn that faces our neighbor’s back yard: this project has given us our first glance at it. The part of the barn we can see from our side is painted to match our house, our garage, and the tool shed. (“Vermonters love their outbuildings,” quipped the listing agent in deadpan the day she showed us the house.) I must admit the unpainted side looks distinctly more barn-like. But as viewed against the rest of the barn, it just looks unfinished, if you ask me. In short, we have more work to do outside before winter forces our attention inward.
Projects spawn more projects in an endless conspiracy to eat up your leisure time. Hurricanes spawn tornadoes, until they finally peter out, leaving projects in their wake. And treeing the vexing squirrels, who seem so busy just now as the seasons begin to change, spawns doggy baths followed by doggy naps in which sleeping dogs lie, but also thump their tails and whine and twitch and growl and quietly woof in REM sleep cycles, at things imagined.
And so it goes in our corner of Vermont.