A Small Island In Rough Seas

The weather is starting to scare me.

It is currently 77 degrees in North Carolina. On December 22. We had to turn the air conditioning on.

The local record, in Raleigh, was set in 1923. It was broken by two degrees today.

Tomorrow it will plunge downward, crashing to 37 degrees, and then down below freezing by the next night.

This is the second time this has happened in the last month. Unseasonably hot, record hot, sudden freezing crash, rinse, repeat.

I have absolutely no context to place this in. This is weird. This whole last year was weird. The farmers at the farmer’s market, many of whom are friends, had wretched vegetable crops. Everything burned out early, drowned, fried, something. We came out of the ten year drought, (which is good!) but we did it with weeks of unending rain. Plants rotted in the ground. We were lucky that we didn’t get a hurricane–even a relatively minor one would have yanked trees right out of the waterlogged soil. Then we had a heat wave and started breaking records again.

Weird weather.

I saw what looked a heckuva lot like a Least Tern over a local lake yesterday. They’re rare inland and they are gone by October. There are moths around my porch light. The bluebirds were house hunting a week ago.

Weird stuff.

Not completely impossible, any of them. All just at the edge of what you’d expect. All these little improbabilities adding up, over and over, all the things that are just a little later, just a little too early.

I won’t lie, guys, it’s starting to scare the crap out of me.

I sometimes feel–probably most of us do, now and again–that our gardens are these little islands in a vast sea of scary things. Asphalt. Pesticides. Obnoxious politicians. Invasive species. We come to sites like this to read about other people’s islands, to find out how to make our own little islands better. Probably a lot of us come just to know that we’re not the only island. Sometimes when you look out and all you see is concrete and HOA’s, it gets discouraging. Sometimes it feels like you’re bailing the tide.

Well. I am not trying to be a downer here. Despair is a worse enemy than Chinese wisteria and Japanese stiltgrass. My island is fine at the moment. The frogs and the bees, my beloved indicators, are all asleep under the leaves. I have no reason to believe they won’t emerge in spring. As the garden grows and the plants settle in, my island is arguably getting better—an older garden holds more species than a young one, if the ecologists are to be believed.

Still, to extend the metaphor, I stand in my little island and look out and the sea is awfully choppy out there. And I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to do next.

As I am writing, I hear thunder. That’s not artistic license—I’m not trying to make a metaphorical point about approaching hoofbeats, although it’d be a really good one and I kinda wish I was—we’re actually about to get a thunderstorm. My husband tells me that there’s some kind of local saying about snow after thunder, but he can’t remember it. He’s lived here all his life and doesn’t remember weather like this.

The elderly border collie, who hates thunder, is hiding under the bed.

I’m kinda wondering if I should join him.



© 2013, Ursula Vernon. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    Everything you have written in this blog post resonates with me. Except for this: ” I am not trying to be a downer here.”

    The reason that doesn’t resonate is because for me, telling the truth does not make someone a “downer.” What has been a downer for me for many years is the fact that I’m surrounded by people who are denying what’s really going on, even though it’s staring us all in the face.

    If I could have more people like you around me every day, I would be scared, yes, but I would also have hope that maybe together we could put that fear to use and try to tend and mend the world around us. But with all this pretending and denying going on, I don’t have that hope.

    We are living in transitional times. You mention the islands your readers have taken responsibility for — who knows but that they may be instrumental in fostering whatever new life emerges out of this period? Geologists are calling our time the “Anthropocene,” because man is changing the planet so profoundly. I’m guessing the Anthropocene will end at some point, like all geological eras, and life will go on.

    Thank you for your post. I feel less alone today because of it.

  2. Ginger Goolsby says

    It was in the mid 70’s here in East Tennessee this past Saturday and then the rains came. It rained most of yesterday and is still sprinkling this morning…soggy is the word. Fifty degrees this morning with falling temperatures today to a low of 26 in the morning. Weird stuff indeed.

    I am 70 years old and have never experienced such weather and like you I am beginning to be scared also. Our poor environment can only take so much abuse.

    My little island is surrounded by imaculate lawns, pesticides, etc. Breaks my heart, but I am doing what I can to provide a safe, friendly place for Mother Nature’s children.

  3. says

    Winter is completely normal here … snow, ice, more snow, breaking trees … more shoveling, breaking backs. On the other hand we are surrounded by ticks carrying Lyme disease of which someone close to me was just diagnosed. The ticks are everywhere – epidemic. I feel it is only a matter of time before I, and everyone around me, contracts the disease. Winter is supposed to kill them, keep their numbers in check. I thought last Winter might but … well, maybe this one will knock them back a bit the way it’s behaving so far.

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