August 29, 2011

After Irene

Tropical storm Irene arrived in Vermont yesterday with heavy rain and high, but not extraordinary, winds. I spent the day in the kitchen of my high and mostly dry house for comfort, making jam and zucchini bread and other goodies, while worrying about my family on the Jersey shore and my friends and family in NYC. Thank goodness the storm wasn't as terrible as feared. After thinking I'd dodged a bullet, my power went out at 5 PM and returned this morning at 10 AM, in time to save the summer produce packed into the freezer. The day was bright and breezy, so I put on my sneakers and went for a walk in the woods, thinking I might find damage there. All I found was this one young tree, its roots dislodged, leaning over the path.

The small stream running through the woods that had been dry for weeks is now singing as it runs over rocks and pebbles and the roots of trees.

Of course the mushrooms are happy with the additional water: almost 7 inches in my rain gauge. This gorgeous coral mushroom, about 3 inches high, has sprung from a fallen log.

The hard shiny red of a varnished mushroom glows like a piece of stained glass.

Tiny golden earth tongues brighten the damp leaf litter.

The colors of lichens, enriched by the rains, make a beautiful abstract pattern on a tree trunk, warm and cool greens and blacks (maybe of liverwort) interact with the cool browns of bark: a spreading landscape of imagined hills and fields.

After my walk, I felt relieved and happy, seeing the woods with renewed life. But then I drove down into town and what I saw at its western end, near the small river, was shocking.

The restaurant/general store had been at the center of a flood which upended the tarmac of its parking lot and filled its cellar. A large tank, empty, for diesel fuel was raised and floated by the river water and gas pumps ruined. A terrible tragedy for this small town business.

The yard of the town garage was was flooded and the culvert under its entranceway floated above ground. In addition to all the other work our intrepid town road crew – thank you Brent and Phillip! – has to do to repair roads, they also have to repair the garage.

Tragic weather events often feel so far away. As soon as my power returned this morning I spent some time looking at the dreadful damage in many small towns in Vermont, but nothing makes it more real than seeing your neighbors affected. This has made me realize that I rarely have enough empathy to truly feel the depth of loss of others; shock, yes, and sympathy, but more? I hope I've been taught a lesson with this flood. And I also have such respect for the emergency personnel, whether police or firefighters or electrical workers or road crews or health workers, who do such a fantastic job. Thank you all.


  1. Those mushrooms are some I have never seen before. They are enchanting. I am glad to hear that you are alright. So much damage in the lower lying areas. SAD.

  2. Lisa, I'm glad you enjoyed the mushrooms. They are so plentiful in the woods right now. And it is very sad to see the damage wrought by the storm, and many other towns had it much worse.

  3. wonderful fotos! Congratulation!
    (facebook senior artists) bea fischer

  4. I also did kitchen work during the storm, freezing vegetables and making apple crisp. Surprised that there was no power failure. But flooding was bad around here in central Vermont too. Some of the road repairs done after the spring flood held well, and some did not. Montpelier's business district was swamped again.

  5. Thank you for posting that you and your farm survived Irene with no ill affects. I look forward to your daily thoughts, your work and photos. Your last painting, was awesome. I enjoy all of your work- but this one had me wanting it for myself. Glad you are well. Keep painting-you have a gift for detail done with simplicity.

  6. thanks, bea, I'm happy you like the photos. Sometimes it's not so easy to shoot in the dark woods and I have to take many many pictures to get a few good ones.
    Helen, what a mess this was; I'm sorry to hear about Montpelier. You're lucky you didn't lose power. It sure was a perfect day for kitchen chores.
    Sue, thanks for all the nice comments. I really appreciate it.

  7. We had been planning on a quick trip to western Vermont this week which we moved up to last Friday-Saturday because of the coming hurricane. Several people asked us how long we were up for and we explained that we had to get back to CT for the storm. They wished us luck. It was you guys who needed the luck. I can't believe how hard you were hit. We had no power for 3 days but no damage. We are thinking about you Vermonters.

  8. Bettina, yes, it's very strange how the storm turned out, affecting us up here in Vermont much more than anyone expected. I had to be on the New Jersey shore for a couple of days before the storm and I was very worried about my family there. Aside from being without power for a few hours, there weren't any terrible problems. I'm glad you didn't have damage, though being without power for 3 days is very hard. I guess you have water if you have no power? because that's the worst of it here: I have no water if there's no electricity, because it's pumped.

  9. Altoon, No, we didn't have water. The night before the storm I filled all my jugs and cooking pots. My husband filled a large kitty liter bucket and assorted containers from his darkroom for gray water. By the second day we were going across the road to the brook for water to flush with. My house was built in 1744 and I felt I was channeling the original occupants. We were lucky to be out for only three days. Some towns in the eastern part of the state are still totally out with estimates of up to two weeks for restoration.

  10. You always find mushrooms that I've never seen before. That red one was so memorable that I will recognize one if I ever see it in person. Glad you are OK; i keep reading Vt. blogs and looking at news stories. It will be a long clean-up.

  11. Bettina, wow, your house is a venerable one...channeling the original occupants indeed. I wouldn't trade our modern conveniences for the simplicity of life back then.
    Ms. Wis., the mushrooms have been amazing the past few days; I've seen more different kinds of boletes than I've ever seen before. The red varnish ones can get very large and gorgeous.
    Vermonters are really pulling together after this storm, but it will be a long time before things are back to normal in some communities.