By Roger Barbee
As these words are being written, it is Monday afternoon, Oct. 29. Off to my left, Powell Mountain is shrouded in a bank of cloud, and North Mountain, way over to the west, sits lost in the heavy mist. Tired of the verbiage on the airwaves, I came to the front bay window to see for myself. Aunt Sookie, the full-figured cat, came too.
Since I am on the south side of the house, the wind is only seen, but not heard as it moves the ancient boxwoods planted by Lemuel. It comes, moving bare limbs of the Norwegian maples, privet hedge, and autumn glory maple, then all goes still as suddenly as it began. Too wet to blow, fallen leaves mat the long grass that was not gotten to in the calm warmth of last week. Out the bay window, in the southeast corner, the last blooms of the Romeo rose droop in the wind and wet, shadows of what they were just days ago.
Across Old Bethel Road, black Angus graze on the far hillside, their dark shapes like silhouettes against the green. Traffic on The Pike sends spray upward, before it quickly resettles on the roadbed. Workers drive slowly down our road, returning early to their homes. A gray squirrel crosses the yard looking for a spot to bury the walnut in its mouth. The afternoon is such a mixture of the normal and the anticipated as the air fills with moisture.
Like everyone in the valley, in the Northeast even, we have watched this storm and its path. Like everyone, we have stocked up supplies, and not traveled on the roads. Like everyone we have wondered how much it will influence our lives. Will our power go out? Will our roof stay put? Will any harm come our way? Later today, maybe tonight, if the predictions are correct, we will be tested by Sandy's weather, but now it is just a reminder of nature's way.
In his short poem, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," Walt Whitman writes that upon attending a lecture to hear a great and learned scientist explain the heavens with charts and graphs and such, he left the lecture hall full of applause, went outside into the night, and "Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars."
The blather from newscasters concerning Sandy is much like, I think, that learned astronomer with his charts and graphs. News people, especially the weather forecasters, seem to regale in giving reports that are either obvious (the wind blows strongly) or too soon to have merit (landfall now will be in Virginia).
Yes, I think it important to be aware of pending circumstances that could affect life. Farmers in the valley certainly need to know of coming rain and storms. However, must we be saturated with every bit of nuance of a storm when no one, especially the ones forecasting, really knows what will happen? Then after the event, is it useful to report on every fallen tree or power outage. Is our urge for control so strong that we have developed a need to "know everything?"
Our pantry is stocked with non-perishables, drinking and non-drinking water is on hand, and batteries are in good supply. It is now time to sit and endure what comes, and as the wind blows the rain and limbs, it looks as if something is coming. However, all that can be done is done, and getting wrapped up in "news" is, it seems to me, useless.
Some years ago, before Mary Ann and I married, Mel, a good friend of mine, came here to live for the summer. When Mel arrived, he asked where the television was. I told him I had none. He wanted to know how I knew what the weather would be, and I responded, "I look out the window."
So as I look out this bay window toward Mount Jackson, the airwaves are full of people using the latest technology to explain this pending storm and what is making it such an unusual one. For many people, this is fine because they, for whatever reason(s) have a need to know. But for me, to watch it come in, hunkered down in this warm, old house of Lemuel's, is enough. Having prepared as best as possible, I can now only sit and watch and let go. What will happen will.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.