I linger in the quiet moments after the wicked storm has passed, shed its gallons against the wind-lashed hillsides and sent the deer common along the muddy furrow of Martin’s Slough up onto its shallow, grassy shoulders to escape rising water and the eddies that spawn around sundered limbs and trunks barely clinging to the soil where they drew nourishment.
The first storm, touted by the painted faces on television as hellbent and fierce as a fighter making his move, is done with us. It lives on, of course, to the east and north, drilling the fog-heavy foothills and breathing steam from the hot inland earth up and into now low-hanging skies. But we’re behind it now, relieved yet raw from the shower and scraping winds that tore shingles from roofs, made snapped black wires spit fire and launched widowmakers aloft like missiles toward an evil target.
The winds were a force. Rain fell like hammer strikes on the concrete outside our green Victorian home, sluicing away the mud and clay beneath and furthering the jagged crack that formed years ago when the Punta Gorda gave way for the thousandth time. We heard those hard edges grind, and the house groaned like a deaf mute aching to be heard.
Damage from the storm is everywhere, none of it severe. The old electric fence, employed years ago to keep the boarding horses from exile, sags in yet greater extremes. There is no fizzle or pop. The line has long been dead, and the horses left years ago when grandmother grew too frail for the bother.
And the chimes. Dozens hung over the years — bird-bone aluminum tubes, driftwood knuckles and copper pipes long like a wizard’s middle finger — now dangle in a cloud of wire and twine, their limbs crossed, dented, bent into a tuneless mass of dead sound.
These are the saddest carcasses. Just days prior, it was an orchestra of resonant tones, adrift on the shelves of air that rose up from the slough, over brambles and a leaning fence, to strum the dangling bells and leave the house awash in what seemed at times to be nature’s symphony, sans conductor unless God suddenly sits up to wave her soft white hands in pride.
Here I am, she’d say, the maker of such splendid sound. Alas, as well the maker of fury.
It’s this rage we fear. Drunk on rain and the gurgling blather of streams pouring forth suddenly from hollow hills, we wait. Another storm loiters just off the coast, a green and swirling tumult straining to hurdle in over the blackened beaches and bluffs that comprise this western coast.
This meantime I pick apart the threads, replace torn fibers, unbend what wasn’t quite broken, and rehang these miracles off nails adorning the eaves. For a few moments they hum again, quieter now in the dead air but strident still in the face of such terrific wounding.
They will sing again, tonight loud and bold, sharp slices and peals in the blunt onslaught of atmosphere. Then maybe they’ll finally die, too shaken and sprung to be remade, silenced like the rest of us when time suddenly stops and our grace-driven voices finally succumb.
However, for these clamoring few — even now excitedly chattering as if no storm, no fury, were in the offing — there can be no better way to die.
James Faulk is a writer living in Eureka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.