A View from the Top
Chasing Hermine


Gordon Cherr, 


Lone Watie: Get ready little lady.
Grandma Sarah: What? Lone Watie: Hell is coming to breakfast. *
(*Chief Dan George, The Outlaw Josey Wales)

Why do these hurricanes always make landfall at night?, I am thinking. I am pulling socks, shorts, a shirt, and shoes in the dark for the morning run, which I will most surely take., The power is off. The entire city, if not the entire county, is dark. And it will be off here for 5 more days. For some, now a week later, power is still not restored. Tallahassee is fond of its trees.That’s the trade off. Trees fall, power lines snap.

The dark is scary in a hurricane. All night long Hurricane Kate pounded, really ravaged us for about 10 straight hours many years ago, in 1985. Those memories die hard. No, they don’t die at all. Ever. Now, with Hermine, being relived in your heart and in your gut. There is an uneasy quiet and calm. Then a wailing of wind, then a rain band so hard and intense you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Then an uneasy calm. Then the process is repeated. Many times.

There is a huge water oak limb about 85 feet above our bedroom. In an abundance of caution we have bed down in the living room. Water is stock piled, ice, batteries, candles, a lot of non perishables just in case, which, of course, comes to pass. We are protected here on three sides by the woods and surprisingly suffer little direct impact.

But you can hear the woods crying out in anguish during the storm. Some trees break. They snap in two. It sounds like a gunshot, but much louder. It is frighteningly painful to hear. Bigger trees, heavy with leaves and water, are blown over at the roots by the gusts of wind which shake your house and rattle your windows. It is so many times more frightening. It starts with a slow almost inaudible sigh from the tree, which becomes a last dying gasp and final breath. The tree falls slowly at first, then faster and faster and then crashes to earth.

“I am dying. Goodbye.”

At first light I am up and out to run. I survey the house and nearby homes, we have been very lucky. I head to the golf course to run. Golf courses are good and safe to run on after big storms. No trees on the fairway, no power lines down, good footing, no one else will be there. The drive there, normally 10 minutes or less, takes 30 minutes. It is apparent, even in the morning not quite yet dawn light, that others may not have fared as well. I know the roads so well, and what local runner doesn’t, that I am able to snake my way through the neighborhoods. A few other early risers are up, people with the blank stare of those stuck in a war zone, outcome still unknown.

The parking lot not surprisingly deserted, and I am up and out of the truck and running in a moment. The fairway is wet, my Altras sound squishy and water splashes everywhere. Clouds race from east to west at an impossibly fast pace. I have never seen clouds moving so fast! The bare first moments of dawn and I am suddenly in a deluge, which passes quickly. Far off to the east, in the first morning light, the sky is black and unfriendly. And there, a tiny, tiny smudge of blue. Or maybe I didn’t see it at all, it is gone in less then a heartbeat, and I am soaked to the bone, but it feels good. I follow the fairway to the north and make a turn to the west and race up a steep hill.

*Treebeard: Many of these trees were my friends. Creatures I had known from nut or acorn.
Pippin: I’m sorry, Treebeard.
Treebeard: They had voices of their own. Saruman! A wizard should know better!
(*The Battle For MIddle Earth, J.R. Tolkien, from The Hobbit Trilogy).

My heart skips a beat. Or three. They are laid out like fallen soldiers, every one torn out by the roots, every one laying to the west. Big trees, huge trees, live oak and pine and more, they lie almost shoulder to shoulder. Here they grew together for a millenia. Here they will die side by side. I can only stop and look. There are no words. These trees were my friends too. I have run these same fairways and woods for 15 years, they shaded me from the summer sun or blocked the winter wind. They were home to creatures great and small. They breathed oxygen for us, they calmed me when I ran with some silly upset in my gut with their quiet understanding presence. I sat under them sometimes and counted the stars through their leaves. They told me that I was lucky to be alive and to appreciate.

My upset is great, this is almost more than I can stand. I don’t remember the rest of the run back to the parking lot or even that much about the drive back home.

I have recently planted a new garden in my backyard. I call it my Zen Garden. It calms me to walk in it, to work in it, to watch the little and big miracles every day… I walk to the back of the house. My stomach is roiling from the violent death of my friends.
By now the sun has risen, and yes, patches of impossibly deep blue appear. A miracle, the Zen Garden is untouched. Flowers still bloom here in quiet profusion. Yellow, orange, red, purple, white. How were they not blown away in the tumult of Hurricane Hermine? A miracle, butterflies…Monarchs, sulfurs, zebra longwing, Gulf fritillary, all dance from flower to flower, in the gentle breeze. Where did they hide during Hurricane Hermine? The grass below my feet is deep green. So is the surrounding protective womb of a leafy canopy above me. An iridescent emerald green hummingbird buzzes around my head, looking me straight in the eye. A strikingly bright red male cardinal sits on a now empty bird feeder and looks at me with anticipation.The sky is azure blue and is so bright it hurts my eyes. The storm clouds have fled.

Remember, even in the throes of their death, the trees said to appreciate.

Thank you for allowing me that run and to chase Hurricane Hermine.