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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene. New York's Santa Ana?

My blog entry for today is being published much later in the day than usual; and for that, I sincerely apologize — especially because I do not appreciate it when I take the time to go to a blog where a scheduled posting has been promised —  only to find older entries and not the "promised"  post of the given day, one which I had been (in most cases) looking forward to reading. I find a blogger not posting during a committed schedule — unless vacation or hiatus plans have been announced — to be somewhat disrespectful of any readers or followers; and therefore, I do not want to make delayed postings a habit.

Some might say I am being somewhat narcissistic, because the world is not pausing, waiting for my new posting so that they can read my blog; nor is it pausing to learn of my follow-ups to any prior blog entries. I just believe it is courteous to keep your word (which, for me, in this case is sticking to a posting schedule that I laid out in January of 2011, which you may refer to by clicking here) to your valued readerships and followers, a community I truly am grateful to have. So without further ado, here's my post for today, August 27th, 2011.
The photograph posted directly below these next paragraphs relates to what had been my intended topic for today — a gardener's journey towards elegant lighting — and it is a blog entry I have been working on since this past Thursday, August 25th.

The scene depicted in this beautiful photograph may look familiar to you if you have been following my blog. It is an aerial view of my terrace garden taken by Juan V. Prior photographs of aerial views (all taken by Juan V) of my rooftop garden have been presented on this blog dating back to April 16th 2011, when he and I first began documenting this season's terrace garden in aerial format. If you'd like to refer to these images, there is one associated with the aforementioned date and you can find the rest throughout my blog by clicking here and here, as well as here and here, and also here and here.)

As you can see from this image, there has been a prominent but elegant change to my terrace garden — an addition of "overhead" string lights. These were a birthday gift from a friend and were ultimately installed by Juan V (with the help of his colleague) in honor of my birthday this past Wednesday, August the 24th. (You may recall, dear reader, that in a prior entry I made a wish for my birthday to be — in terms of my garden — more accepting of any garden mushrooms.  At that time I did not realize that on my birthday I would not only be "rewarded"  with those mushrooms receding into the soil of my affected shrubs and plants, but that lovely string lights would be installed by Juan V. You may also recall that, over a year ago, Juan V did another installation in my garden. To refer to Juan V's first installation in my garden, please click here.)

In any event, initially, when planing for today's blog entry, I wanted to include the August 24th string light installation as a blog topic, because, if you are a gardener like myself, and you enjoy having outdoor lights, but don't like the cords interfering with the esthetic of your landscape, you may glean from what I have had installed in my garden. Even with summer coming to a close, it is still not too late to install string lights in your garden, as there are plenty of beautiful days to enjoy a garden in what remains of the summer, and well into the fall.

The story I had wanted to share in today's blog entry is about my journey in procuring this type of lighting, and it is something that I truly think would be appreciated by anyone coming to terms with how they have evolved esthetically. However, an event, that is impacting New York City and its surrounding areas, as well as much of the eastern coast of the United States, has caused me to decide to leave the insight brought on by the string lighting installation in my terrace garden for next weekend's post

The event that has preempted the intended content of today's posting is the preparing for Irene, a hurricane, which, according to all reports, will be barreling down on the area where I live late this evening, throughout the night and all of tomorrow.

The photograph by Juan V still relates to today's post but in a far different way than I had planned. The elegant and tranquil — yet joyful spirit — of my garden shown in the aerial photograph of the garden with the string light installation has been replaced with a spirit of anticipation and some anxiety over the prediction of possible severe wind damage which could be a result of Hurricane Irene; therefore, I have done what I can do to protect my garden (hence the delay in today's posting).

For example, in my garden, I have an antique fireplace fixture which normally "houses" the planters that contain my Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) and my Lavandula dentata (French Lavender) as seen in the photograph (where my Echinacea insisted on being a part of the image) directly below.

This unique fireplace-fixture-turned-garden-ambiance-setter has been in my garden for years. Early this past summer, it was moved from the west side of my garden to the north portion of my garden (where an old fashioned sign had been for many years as discussed in a blog entry that you can find by clicking here) and it is very securely hooked over the railing which goes around my terrace. Not wanting to take chances, in light of Irene's intended wrath, I have moved it to the "floor" of my terrace as indicated by the yellow arrows superimposed over the photograph below.

Additionally, I brought the plant stand for my Tropaelum majus (Nasturtium), the stand for my Rubus calycinoides (Ornamental Raspberry), my outdoor chairs, and my marble table top inside my studio apartment, leaving only the table's heavy pedestal (lying on its side  atop the "floor" of the garden) outside (indicated by the purple arrow in the image posted above). 

I have moved my 'Tamukeyama' (Japanese Red Maple) along with my beloved Blue Shag pine towards the door that leads from my garden into my studio apartment, hoping that by their being close to the wall, they will be protected from any objects which might fall as a result of wind damage brought on by Hurricane Irene. However, my Japanese Larch (Larix Kaempferi), my  Rubus calycinoides (Ornamental Raspberry), my Acer shirasawanum (Autumn Moon), and my Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry Vine) moved inside. It was not an easy decision as to what herbs, plants, flowers, shrubs and trees to bring inside because I did not, and do not, want them to go through any shock being brought inside, especially after they have thrived so well this season. All of my efforts to have my garden hurricane-ready were prompted by the following email that I received late last night from Juan V:
"I just thought I'd send a quick reminder to bring in or secure any light weight loose items that you may still have out on your respective terraces &/or gardens.  With the possible severity of the impending storm these items could easily become projectiles.  It's much easier to replace a fallen/cracked pot than a folding chair through a living room window.  Also, it would be wise to remove any pots &/or decor from walls, stands, etc.  A good rule of thumb may be if a single person can lift and move it then a 100 mph. gust can. 
I know that in the city we are already limited in the interior space that we have, so in regards to large pots & furniture use one's own best judgement.  If possible slide these items to a less exposed area in your garden or up against a wall.
Hopefully we'll look back at this email as only another silly reminder of the storm that never was, but with a hurricane of this potential magnitude it's best to do what we can to keep our families, friends & pets safe.  Thank you for your time and I hope to speak with you very soon."
Having heeded Juan V's advice, my garden is as braced as it can be for Irene, and as for New York City itself, as of noon today, The New York Transit system (aka The M.T.A.), whose slogan is "The M.T.A. — going your way" , stopped going our way, by noon, having already shut down all subway and bus transportation, as per their announcement which you may read by clicking here. Area railroad companies followed this action by shutting down train transportation and all the airports are closed.

Yesterday folks were clamoring to buy what was left of any batteries that were available —  in the event of a what could easily occur as the result of any hurricane devastation, and that is a power outage. Other folks were crowding the liquor stores as well as the speciality boutiques that sold coffee, making sure to purchase items in order to have "other types of batteries" on hand. There did not seem to be a general sense of panic in New York City, even though, when it comes to impending weather conditions, people can exhibit strange behavior. 

For example, in relation to the onset of Santa Ana's (hot winds which occur in the Los Angeles area), uneasiness and tension prevails. Joan Didion, a writer that I have referred to in a number of my blog entries (including ones you may refer to by clicking here as well as here and here), has this to say (in her essay, Los Angeles Notebook): "There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight, a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sandstorms along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air. To live with a Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior." 

Didion's observation of living with a Santa Ana as accepting "consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior" is interesting to me as I prepare for the hurricane, making sure that the garden I tend to is secured to the best of my ability. As  I was doing this prep work, the folks in the buildings  that surround my terrace garden were outside: tying down objects and trees that are on terraces which "tower" over my garden. This was somewhat of a consolation to me, and hopefully to the herbs, vines, flowers, plants, shrubs and trees which I grow in my garden, as they would be most affected by any negligence on my neighbor's part.

I noticed a Japanese woman (on a lower floor of the building directly north of me) doing "traditional" hurricane damage control, putting large "X' s made from tape, on each window. As she was doing this, she yelled, at the top of her voice in a conversation she was having on her cell-phone (for all the "hood" to hear) which, I confess, prompted me to yell across the courtyard to her imploring her to lower her voice. I'd like to use the excuse that my yelling out across the courtyard was weather related, but it's likely that my cranky nature had set in, given my aversion to the way folks use cell phones. However, weather related outbursts have been the subject of literature. Even the author Raymond Chandler, cited in Didion's, Los Angeles Notebook, concedes that outbursts can be weather related, Didion includes this Chandler quote in her essay stating: "'On nights like that', Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana, 'every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks; anything can happen." 

Thankfully, I am not the type to feel the edge of a knife while expressing my disgust at cell-phone users insensitivity! Instead, I allowed my court-yard neighbor's "X" markings to prompt me to put some tape on the windows of my door as seen in the photographs posted respectively below:

However, I still certainly wish there were protection regarding cell-phone behavior, and my "friend" Dagwood seems be in agreement with me as indicated in the comic strip below:

I cannot blame my temperament regarding cell phones on Irene, but I think it could be more exasperated by it, for another point Didion brings out in Los Angeles Notebook (the aforementioned essay) in relation to weather conditions  and human behavior is ". . . it turns out to be another one of those cases in which science bears out folk wisdom. The Santa Ana, which is named for one of the canyons it rushes through, is a foehn wind, like the foehn of Austria and Switzerland and the hamsin of Israel. There are a number of persistent and malevolent winds, perhaps the best known of which are the mistral of France and the Mediterranean sirocco, but a foehn wind has distinct characteristics: it occurs on the leeward slope of a mountain range and, although the air begins as a cool mass, it is warmed as it comes down the mountain and appears finally as a hot dry wind. Whenever and wherever a foehn blow, doctors hear about headaches and nausea and allergies, about 'nervousness' about 'depression'. In Los Angeles some teachers do not attempt to conduct formal classes during Santa Ana, because the children become unmanageable. In Switzerland the suicide rate goes up during a fohen, and in the courts of some Swiss cantons the wind is considered a mitigating circumstance for a crime."

Didion's conclusion on this matter is, "Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability.The wind shows us how close to the edge we are."

And so perhaps, the winds of Irene, like the Santa Anas in Los Angeles,  will remind me and my "comrade" New Yorkers, just how close to the edge we are, and that in knowing this, we can come together, not just in our preps for an impending hurricane, be it garden prep or otherwise. I don't mean to sound haughty here or preachy but it is in weather conditions like the one that is upon is in New York that one realizes how fleeting possessions and life itself can be.

With that dear reader, I hope if you live in any area affected by Irene that you are prepared, at minimum with your evening vino, and your morning coffee. I don't mean to sound cavalier about Irene or the preparation for it; with this parting thought, because I am well aware that there is a great likelihood of falling trees from what I hear, which will cause damage, and I acknowledge that there must certainly be lot of anxiety for those who were ordered to evacuate. I sincerely wish everyone a safe weekend, and I look forward to hearing about your hurricane experiences, and to sharing my intended post topic (a gardener's journey towards elegant lighting) with hopefully little damage to report.

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