Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First things first

I absolutely must apologize for my extended absence. Suffice it to say it's been busy here, busy there, busier than I would have hoped, for Pete's sake.

Construction inside and out has been the order of the day, with camping and furious play interspersed. Our gas lines are being converted from old-style metal lines to new-fangled PVC. This means digging. And with digging must come pictures, because I have a three-year-old Monkey who grunts at the mere thought of big orange constructiony things.


And in the middle of it all--I have discovered an embarrassing but delightful truth: the tree in my front yard with beautiful pink flowers in spring and purple leaves spring, summer and fall is not a crab apple tree! Purely by accident, I happened to stoop down yesterday after retrieving the mail. There on the ground was a fruit of the tree, fallen from its stem, and split open. The juicy, sparkling fruit inside was certainly not crab appleish, and so I plucked one from the tree to take inside and bisect. Understand, we've lived here for years and never picked the fruit--because what in Heaven's Name would I do with crab apples?? I've left them for the appreciative winter birds, and have been completely unaware that my very own tree in my very own front yard is, in fact, a PLUM TREE!!!


I am now on the hunt for delicious recipes for my lovely plums, and shall be experimenting. Praise God!

The saga of camping deserves it's own entry, but I refuse. If I promise a story and one is not forthcoming, you'll be sad, and I'll feel guilty. So on we go.

We camped at a county park two hours north which was rumored to have several sites right on a lovely beach, sloping down to a clear lake with shallows going 50 yards out. Well, the beach part was true enough, but the clear lake left a bit to be desired. It had been drained (a year ago? two years ago?), and tall weeds have now grown throughout the shallows. The kids didn't care; they spent most of the weekend on the beach anyway, mucking in the weed sludge, frolicking in the water, and kayaking through the weeds pretending to be pirates. (Of course, pirates need good hiding places and don't care about mud and sludge, so they were happy.) They fished (with my Monkey hollering at one point, "Dad! DAD!! Something stole my worm!!") and we ate fish. They roasted marshmallows and ingested more sugar than a vendor could spin into cotton candy.


When we arrived to set up camp on Friday afternoon, the rain had just lightened into a sprinkle, and the weather in general was much cooler than we had expected. I kept my jeans on and my sweater close at hand. Even the work of keeping house didn't warm me into a sweat. My Darling popped up the camper, and I busied myself making the beds, spreading the the rugs, setting out pajamas, folding out chairs, and making sure that everything was just so. The kids ran off to explore the four adjoining sites and play with their cousins. It looked like a normal weekend of camping with My Darling's sisters, cousins, and all of their kids. Supper was a delicious fish fry, and everyone had more than enough to eat.

When bedtime rolled around, the Pickle headed to the tent he shares with the only other boy cousins there, and the girls and the Monkey settled into their beds in the camper. The Monkey fell asleep in the middle of our prayers, and the Reepicheep and Frog were not far behind. The Pudgy Bug snuggled in with me for her milkies and was soon snoring lightly. My Darling was sleeping almost immediately, because as we all know, his only requirement for sleep is to start out awake. As usual, I laid awake, with dozens of thoughts swirling in my mind like an eddy. As the minutes crept silently around, I began to hear gentle rolls of thunder far off in the distance. It wasn't until about midnight that I noticed lightning flashes. I counted the seconds between flashes and booms, applying the common rule of one mile for every seven seconds, and estimated that the storm was better than ten miles off.

By quarter past midnight, though, the storm had closed in to only about two miles away. I nudged My Darling awake and asked him if we were set for a thunderstorm. Not having television available anymore, I only had the internet forecast to rely on, and since we were two hours from home, I didn't know what was coming for the county we were in. He stepped outside to roll up the sides of our canopy and put the stroller underneath the bunk end of the camper to keep it dry.

We figured we were safe.

We were wrong.

Beginning at about 12:20 AM, there was constant lightning, thunder, and downpours of torrential rain. The let-ups, when they happened, lasted for five or ten minutes. And by one o'clock, everyone but the Monkey was wide awake. The Bug, wide-eyed, was snuggling with her Daddy. The Reepicheep and the Frog were playing notebook games with a flashlight. I was praying fervently, and worrying, as usual, about everything under the moon and stars, because goodness knows there was something I had forgotten to put away or that would be completely ruined by the rain. This time my neurosis wasn't too far off track, although mercifully, nothing was ruined beyond repair.

Around 1:30, we heard a crack of thunder accompanying a flash which seemed to light the sky more brightly than the sun. The explosion which followed rattled my teeth, and caused me and the girls to yelp as though in pain. It was the kind of thunder boom that makes you think you'll see a charred pit right behind your house. Again, we weren't too far off the mark.

The storm continued the entire night. It finally let up at around 6:00, leaving a stiff wind in it's wake to usher out the front. By this time, we were utterly soaked, the battered canvas having given way to the six hours of continuous rain. Our pillows, sheets and blankets were dripping, and the breeze was welcomed by everyone as we hung our bedding out to dry.

We gathered around the picnic tables to find breakfast, and heard the news shared by each family as to how they had weathered the storm. The Pickle and the boy cousins had found refuge in my sister-in-law's camper. My other sister-in-law reported that the three inches of water beneath the floor of her tent made it feel like they were atop a giant, tented water bed. Because there was little wind during the actual storm, there was no damage, really--nothing lost to the lake or blown over the fire (what little there was left of the coals)--but the rushing water was host to sand, seeds, sticks and general crud. Rugs from outside campers and tents were in need of a good hose-down. Shoes which had been left underneath campers--in otherwise safety--were completely soaked through. And my stroller had succumbed to the river of rainwater which had coursed beneath the camper, washing away the formerly solid ground and creating a mini mud slide. The stroller was on the ground, covered with clumps of dirt and sand, sopping wet, and looking pitiful.

The day remained cool enough that after hanging out items in need of drying, many from our group ventured out to see how the rest of the park fared.

About a half-mile down the road from our site, this was the view.


The crack which had shaken the earth beneath us was the result of an actual explosion. A forty-something foot tall pine tree had been split down the middle. The bark laid in strips as though a giant vegetable peeler had sliced down the length, exposing the smooth, wet wood beneath. The smell of raw pine and singed earth hung around the remains of the tree, and the thought that it could have been any tree in that park was the unspoken sentiment. Miraculously, though there were hundreds of people camping, there was no one on this particular site. The tree fell in shards and splinters all around, but no one was hurt. The people in the site across the road reported that their lips literally tingled in the charged air.

The sunset that night was gorgeous--a comforting reminder that all storms do, eventually, come to an end.


The gentle rain which fell on Saturday night was barely noticed.

I must say, we were all happy to camp together, but vastly relieved to be home on Sunday night. We even had enough time (and almost enough hot water) for everyone to have a shower before we went to Mass on Sunday evening. The laundry is all finished, folded, and put away, and the next camp out is being plotted.

Heaven only knows what weather adventures we'll face next time.

No comments: