Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The aftermath

Early today, the day after Hurricane Irene struck, I was on the screened-in back porch, listening to the rain, trying to wake myself. The rain was coming down hard but I heard the “thief!” call of a blue jay.

Jays are not my favorite bird. They are noisy and hit the feeder hard and often, scaring off everything else. They will attack the young of others - I have seen one snatch up a baby house wren that had fallen from the nest box and make off with it before I could get out of my porch chair.

Today I’d never heard a sweeter call.

We all remember the story of Noah sending out a dove that came back with an olive branch, giving him hope the water was receding. The next time the dove was sent it did not return because the worst was over.

Birds are wonderful indicators of both good and bad. Days before the great tsunami that hit Indonesia a few years ago, the birds were among those leaving the area. Closer to home, if you see a gull inland a storm may be brewing off the coast. (Of course, gulls are just as likely to be Dumpster-diving with the crows nowadays, so seeing one inland may not be a sign of anything.)

On the good end, as happened today, when the pair of cardinals called to each other it meant Irene's rain was ending, the water table would recede and the worst was over.

We were lucky. We came through relatively unscathed. The worst was dripping from the ceiling that came into the attic and then into a smoke detector, setting it off around 2 am and scaring me out of a deep, dreamless sleep. My husband (MH) was awake, and would ultimately be awake for 34 straight hours tracking the storm, checking the attic (once he’d plugged the leak and put in tarps and buckets to catch any water) and especially checking on the sump pump that ran regularly all night as the water table rose.

After noon today it was the wind that became a problem. One past hurricane, Floyd, didn’t hurt us as he blew through but the backlash winds blew over a tree that took out the power lines for several days, forcing us to bring perishables to MH‘s parents, then a few towns away.

I remembered they now live in New Hampshire when, around 2pm, the winds picked up and the power went off.

Mercifully, it quickly came back on and has stayed on.

After already making three trips taking brush to the curb for pickup I will be rising early tomorrow to get the last of it. I will put back outside the thistle feeder for the goldfinches and will add the house feeder with sunflower seeds for the cardinals, my way thanking them for reminding me there's always hope.

I won’t even mind the jay coming to call.

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