By Roger Barbee
The derecho, or straight line thunderstorm, last Friday night did to us on Old Bethel Road as it did to many in the valley: the violent storm roared out of Ohio toward us and first gave a dramatic show of lightening accompanied by clashes of heavy thunder, then a slow building of wind that rushed to the intense level that drove us all to shelter, and then the horizontal rain that beat its wild rhythm on all surfaces.
This display of power continued for about 30 minutes and as Mary Ann and I came out from our "downstairs shelter bathroom" that we had shared with a frightened tortoise shell cat, we sat and watched out south-facing windows as the back end of the storm passed. No light, but for the lightening, showed as all power was gone. By this time, the wind had calmed, but the hard rain continued. We waited for another 30 minutes, then went back upstairs to our bedroom because it seemed safe enough.
The storm had cooled the humid day, so we opened windows, enjoyed the breeze and slept as best we could; well one of us slept fine, but one did not -- someone has to worry about more storms.
Emerging from our downstairs, generator-powered cocoon the next morning, we saw little damage in our yard until we went out and looked behind the corn crib. Walnut tree limbs, none too big, littered our yard and our neighbor's yard. What had been our back line of white pine trees lay scattered like someone had played pick-up sticks with them, and a large sugar maple in our neighbor's yard had split.
We sat on the back patio, sharing coffee (everyone liked that noisy, propane driven generator that powered the coffe maker) with neighbors, surveying the damage on our street. It was a mess, but no buildings had been damaged and no one had been injured. We were fortunate.
The conversation and coffee gave way to work clothes, gloves, chain saws, loaded trailers and multiple trips to the landfill. Rakes, usually only used in the fall, piled small brush to be hauled away and our well, because of the generator, became a supplier of clean water. The roar of a few portable generators gave notice that refrigerators and freezers in neighboring homes were preserving milk, eggs, and last fall's venison. Everyone on our street managed that day without electricity, and all that that
commodity gives us: lights, toilets, air conditioning, well water - the list is long.
As I worked in my own yard, and talked with neighbors, the family whose yard was full of those dreadful white pines, I was reminded of Matthew's quoting of that greatest of men: "Have you considered the lilies of the field: how they grow."
Three years ago, we had had a long and thoughtful discussion about installing a permanent generator because of my paraplegia -- Mary Ann stressed its importance for my freedom and safety. She won. So, Friday night when power went out, it kicked in and powered the elevator, kitchen and well pump. The derecho had not interrupted our lives that much. Sure, we had the inconvenience of limbs and trees down, but we had lights downstairs, a refrigerator, toilets, showers and cool, cool water.
However, as I watched neighbors begin their work in cleaning up, coming over to fill cans with water, and eat a grilled hamburger, I was reminded of Matthew's quoting. All of our neighbors went about the necessary business of living without complaint. The couple with some of our trees lying in their yard said, "Oh, don't worry. No one or anything was hurt."
The elderly couple near us came for water and said that, "We're fine, don't worry. It could've been worse." Another fellow down the road loaned and installed a portable generator for the truck driver next door so that his freezer of meat would not spoil.
As I gathered debris from our yard, I kept thinking how much, indeed, our neighbors were like lilies of the field - living and trusting in a power mightier than themselves or the derecho.
They lived those words, "how they grow..." They grow by doing what they must to change what they can, but not bothering with things beyond their control. That belonged to a greater power.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs, and five cats. You may contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org