Irma Cleans Up

I have too much outdoor stuff. In twelve years I have accumulated Florida stuff. Huge plates and bowls full of shells.

Shells seem to multiply

Plants, orchids, and more than one garden gee-gaw on a stick. Hanging bells, pelicans and sea urchins. One ceramic head. About eight bird houses and the hooks and poles to hang them. Aqua Adirondack chairs. Iron plant stands I intend to paint. Growboxes for peppers and tomatoes.

My plants huddle together

Succulents in tera cotta planters. A staghorn fern. A table and six chairs. Ceramic lanterns and decorative driftwood. And gnomes. Lanai gnomes, not garden gnomes. My husband is opposed to public (yard) gnome display.

Brought inside, gnomes enjoy reading

I know that I have too much stuff because we recently had to prepare for an oncoming hurricane named Irma. Since we have no automatic shutters, everything had to be carted inside before we affixed our aluminum accordion shutters (which are a total and complete pain in the butt), necessary for protection from all flying objects. Coconuts are a big worry, for instance. Roof tiles are another hazard. And there are multitudinous trees and other debris the wind can carry.

The dreaded shutters

Once you get the shutters on the windows and doors (with nuts, bolts and sweat), the house is dark. You have no way to see what’s going on outside. The living space is filled with outside stuff, accompanied by the little lizards and things that came in on the plants. Also, you are exhausted from moving and worrying.The power is still on, and the broadcast weather people are earning their keep and then some. We know by heart when the next update from NOAA is due.

And then the power goes out and you rely on battery operated devices, like radios and flashlights. It’s really dark now. Irma’s getting closer and now everyone from the governor on down tells you to get the hell out. It’s a mandatory evacuation. We are in Zone A, come to find out, and that means a possible storm surge of ocean water way over our heads, which means trouble. A surge, as I understand it, is when the hurricane is positioned in such a way that it sucks the water out of rivers and the Gulf and then throws it back, and anything in the way in inundated. Big time. It should also be noted that most Floridians live in one-story homes.

I try to think of what to take. Not much, some sentimental jewelry, papers, our cell phones and the new puppy. We had to hurry.

We evacuated to a friends’ home (fellow birders are REALLY nice people) in Zone C. There was power. We glued ourselves to the TV news. Irma was a very big girl, and we were scared. Then they called for evacuation of Zone B, again because of potential storm surge. Another birding family moved in. We were 11 humans—with 4 dogs and 2 cats.

The gang of 11

As the storm approached. the dogs were in crates, the cats in separate rooms, and the humans ranged in age from 4 to 70. We retreated to interior spaces—the hall and utility room. A prayer was said.

Lo and Behold, Irma hit land and moved east, consequently, for us, she spent her fury on wind rather than hurling sea water around.  Lucky, we all agreed, scarcely believing it could be true.

Meanwhile, Our evac home had no shutters, but it was built tough, with a deep overhang and an industrial grade roof. Slowly, we crept out of the hall (our safe spot) and watched as rain and wind pummeled the forest and backyard pond. Palm trees bent to the ground. Cypress rocked back and forth. Pet ducks took cover and seemed oblivious to the storm.

We all survived, and thanks to the storm surge fizzle, there was lots of rain water but no salt water. What can you say? Surviving is the important part. Clean-up and water and power loss and the hot humid hell that follows are bad, but you are alive. You stand in a cold shower and appreciate life.

And I really, really, really am getting rid of stuff. Just as soon as I can find it.