Two days before Isabel was scheduled to come calling, we had trouble believing that a giant storm was churning the Atlantic. It was a dry, sunny, breezy, blue-sky day. So, instead of buying flashlights and generators like everyone else, here we were, walking around the garden, wondering if we should be feeling
nostalgic about the craggy old oak that now seemed so vulnerable, or dashing about, securing our garden treasures.
Oh, let’s just enjoy the day.
After a fierce summer of tenacious heat and heavy rains that saturated the soil, some plants were flat out with migraines. Thugs, on the other hand, were rolling over the wimps. Weeds were brazen. Such nasty political infighting here in the plant world. We ignored the tangles and let the pleasure and the playfulness of the garden pull us in.
Yellow asters were lounging out of control at six feet. Blue ageratum and rusty sedum — fly-in cafeterias for wayfaring bees and butterflies – were serving nectar and pollen. Goldenrod gave seed to gold finches. Handsome hardy begonia, fragrant ginger lilies, and a faithful phlox or two brightened the beds. It was an afternoon like any other, and we savored our fortunes.
Sigh. . .We’ve dallied enough. Back to storm priorities. Garden ornaments! How
to protect them? Our house is airy with windows. It is wrapped snugly into a curve of tall pines. Any of these pines could snap and become flying missiles. The house might not be such a fortress. (No need to lose a gazing globe along with the house.) How about a wrap in an old blanket and a stash in the dryer? Better not forget about it there.
Merry Puck, the sturdy concrete goblin-spirit from England, faithfully watches over our garden. Reluctantly, we take him off duty. We nudge him off his concrete butter-churn base and carefully snuggle him face down on a bed of periwinkle. No falling tree would dare to chip his ears, would it?
It’s late afternoon. Sunlight is waltzing with shadow through our slip. Young trees arch over the water. Their interleaved tops form a luminous cathedral where ripples of light from a
stained-glass sun dance on leaves and waters. Pure magic. A gift. The most beautiful spot in our garden. Untouched, unmanaged by us.
Beyond, the dark woods cast a protective canopy. A slice of wilderness that gives hiding places and homes to so many creatures we rarely see.
The big trees worry us most. Many are locked together underground, roots hugging roots in tight embrace, for years undisturbed. Does that give them an advantage, or a disadvantage, in a storm? Those pines framing
the house, why in the world hadn’t we cut them down? We’d been talking about it for years.
That crooked old pine hanging over the water, could that one withstand even a single gust? Well, if it snaps in two, turtles will have another log and birds will have a dead snag for roosting.
A maple stands alone at the side of the house. Through the years we’ve watched
its crown spread, its trunk fatten. At forty, it’s still a whippersnapper, but a greedy one, its roots invading flower beds, robbing moisture from mossy ground, lifting up a wide mound around its base.
When I was a youngster, after a particularly memorable hurricane, my father took a picture of me standing next to a toppled maple. The massive root ball had broken out of its sidewalk cage and was reaching for the sky. I was a cipher next to it. . .