Thursday, October 13, 2016


            “Northern Michigan?! How can you want to live up there with all the ice and snow?!”

            These words, or similar ones, were hurled in our direction by our friends in Florida while we were on a quick trip to Gainesville to see friends and family, who do not share our delight in cold weather, and to retrieve a sculpture that we wisely decided not to entrust with our movers. Meanwhile, Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Florida coast, and residents were fleeing inland – and north – to escape the destruction. Hurricanes are rare in Traverse City, Michigan.

            We had planned to drive over to Jacksonville on Saturday to pick up our bird sculpture at artist Laurie Hitzig’s studio. This is the same Saturday when the Weather Channel was predicting a ten-foot storm surge in Jacksonville along with winds in excess of 100 m.p.h. Jacksonville might have been an easy hour’s drive because the traffic would be heading the other way as evacuees fled to safety. But of course we would be heading into the wind, and the fleeing snakes and gators would be acting as speed bumps, slowing us down as we approached the wall of water heading inland toward us.

            We changed our plans. Our sculpture is made largely of wood. We hope it floats. Our decision to avoid the coast was confirmed Friday night as we watched the destructive force of Matthew on the Weather Channel.

            Friday was the day that Gainesville was to receive the brunt of Hurricane Matthew. When the Weather Channel showed bands of red swirling overhead, Genne’ decided to go for a walk. That’s the way she is. We experienced light breezes and drizzle. “It was,” Genne’ concluded, “a disappointment.”

            We headed out on I-75 on Saturday in delightfully sunny weather, no doubt annoying Gator football fans whose game, and thus tailgating, was postponed. As we approached Atlanta on Saturday we saw powerful evidence of the hurricane in the form of a stream of trucks heading south toward Jacksonville and the Georgia and South Carolina coasts: emergency vehicles, trucks equipped to trim trees, trucks from utilities companies, trucks carrying dumpsters, fire engines, dump trucks, military vehicles, and trucks we assumed were carrying food and water. There were several caravans – we counted over 50 trucks in one of them – escorted by flashing lights.

            The sight was horrifying – think of the damage and people’s lives – but it was also heartwarming. Someone, probably a part of a government agency, had mobilized all these resources. The person in charge probably is labeled “bureaucrat” and will be maligned for government inefficiency, but at this moment we saw work underway. I don’t know how many of the people in the trucks were volunteering their time, but that doesn’t matter. Help was on the way. I know that in previous hurricanes workers from Detroit Edison traveled to Louisiana and New Jersey to help get power restored, and we know that plenty of people step up and volunteer in a crisis. Kim and I felt proud to be part of a country that can and does respond this way.

            This feeling lasted even after watching as much of the Presidential debate as we could stomach.

            As I write this we are in Traverse City, where tonight’s forecast low is 38 degrees and the signature roadkill has changed from Florida’s armadillos to Michigan’s porcupines and skunks.

Carl Levine responded with the following:

Ma Nature has a strange sense of humor. I have lived in several regions of the US and visited others. Each is subject to extremes of climate and Geological action and no place seems immune. As North Carolina is going through extreme flooding as a result of the Hurricane, I, in the SF Bay area have used my windshield wipers for the first time in months as we experience a slight rainfall. A week ago we were hearing of the stages of containment of several huge forest fires within two hours drive from us, as a result of the extreme drought.
At times I have been evacuated as a result of Hurricanes (Virginia Beach and Nantucket). We stayed through one smaller Hurricane in Nantucket and I spent the following day helping boat owners drag their small (and not so small ) craft back into the ocean. I have experienced the tremors of small earth Quakes in the Bay area and have heard what some of the big ones were like from friends that we have made since we moved here. I have never experienced a tornado and hope that I never will but I am well aware of the suddenness and devastation brought about by these storms.
Nature. A balance of beauty and disaster. We are constantly drawn to and back to the areas where these events occur. We wait until the last minute to evacuate, even when there is time to do so. We rebuild in the exact location where the previous disaster occurred. So it has been and so it will continue to be.
Until 2008, I was a life-long resident of the Northeast. I enjoyed the four seasons and even the snow (sometimes). I am now glad that I don't own a snow shovel. Should I develop some kind of snow urge, Lake Tahoe and Bear Valley are quite near. At my age, I am enjoying the relative boredom of the Bay Area climate.


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