She calls herself Lauren but is also known as Mom, Gramma, Lar, and, once upon a time, Peach. An ex-suburbanite who moved to the wilds of the Sonoran Desert and decided to raise fiber animals, fowl creatures, 3 halflings, and one pint-sized farmer without a clue as to how. Join Lauren as she learns how to file alpaca teeth, shear a horny goat, raise 3 teenagers and 1 grandchild while cooking dinner and doing the laundry with her other six arms.
First, the good news. Our home, as far as we know, did not take on water. Mud lapped the back doors and made the piles of towels and blankets work for their keep but, other than a mess of mud tracked indoors, we are surviving, a little unbalanced, but surviving.
Shades of "The Beverly Hillbillies," we once jokingly called this the cee-ment pond. Now it it the muddiest of swimming holes I have ever seen.
Under the layer of mud are the tiles we carefully chose when designing the pool and to the right of them is the channel which holds the now-ruined pool cover, installed to prevent toddler mishaps and allow us a good night's sleep.
Nature wastes no time in reclaiming its territory. In the pool/mud bog languishes this Sonoran Desert Toad, commonly known as the Colorado Bullfrog. His skin is psychoactive and has enough venom to kill a large dog. Sometimes college kids lick them to get high. We typically only see and hear them during monsoon season. They are known to cause mass insomnia with their sexual exploits. Just the other night, Jessica had company over late and, when asked what that noise was, she replied, "Fucking frogs" and then tickled herself because that's exactly what it was.
The animals are in as much of a daze as we are, wandering the new, not improved farmyard and checking out their reimagined digs. Everything looks different.
The main wash changed from a sandy expanse measuring anywhere from two to six feet to fifteen feet plus. What was covered with scrub, weeds, and small animal nesting grounds on our untouched acre is now a black sand beach (which some asshole lookie-loo had to mar with his quad, private property, bub) .
Trees lost root-saving soil, concrete fence supports cracked and lost their strength, and chain link farmyard surrounds relinquished their usefulness. All these areas had at least three feet of rip-rap and dirt surrounds protecting them.
Walking the neighborhood this morning, we found others who fared worse.
A mud river ran through Elmo and Virginia's garage.
Someone's dumpster learned that not only powerful trucks can relocate it.
And someone's block wall disintegrated, witnessed by numerous concrete masonry units scattered among the post-flood detritus.
As I stated as I began this post, we are alive and if not totally well and that is what matters. Although a troubling early mornng phone call confirmed we have no flood insurance, we plow on, renting a bobcat and a sump pump, purchasing dirt and rip-rap, and employing all the parental and teenaged elbow grease we can muster.
This afternoon, the skies opened up. After our initial happy rain dance, it became very apparent this was anything but a happy event.
Our yard is flooded, our pool full of mud, and our berm of rip-rap is undermined and downriver somewhere. The repair time and cost will be high and mostly uncovered by insurance as we are not in a flood plain and therefore do not have flood insurance. Deep cleansing breaths. (Actually, ragged shuddering gasps and a break the rule Kiltlifter.)
Finally, a photo of the aftermath (oh but joy it is forecast to rain throughout the night) and a few very amateurish videos.
Summer and I don’t like each other.Summer throws heat, humidity, and mosquitoes my way, all of which I do my best to ignore. Unlike my cohorts who could play for hours in the cloying North Carolina July weather, I was a wimp. On more than one occasion, my mother would answer a knock on the door to some indiscriminate neighbor telling her that her kid had fainted again. Yeah, I was that one, the geek who was better suited to sitting in a cool corner and reading book after book than conquering the great outdoors.
The antidote to the swelter came in the form of the Atlantic Ocean, long expanses of white sand, and a cottage overlooking it all. The beach was my friend.Sea breezes kept the mosquitoes at bay and the temperatures palatable.The salt water enveloped and cooled me, entertained and relaxed me and, unlike the outdoors in my home town three hours to the west, I could spend those hours playing outside and often did.
I learned simple things, how to turn my side to breaking waves and make it to the calm past the surf, and more complicated endeavors, like standing up on a borrowed old-fashioned surfboard made of balsa wood and measuring close to 12 feet long.My father bought me a canvas inflatable raft, red on one side, blue on the other, with vertical chambers to hold air, and I floated on it for hours on end, often forgetting to keep track of where I was and heading into the dreamy recessives of my mind.Unbeknownst to me, the undertow carried me far down and away from our shared beach house. Floating in a happy stupor, I’d jump out of it when my exasperated father found me, yelling, “Lar!” and pointing toward where I was supposed to be.In an action that would be repeated many times throughout the day, the week, and the summer, I’d ride a wave to shore, walk back in front of the adults drinking and laughing on the shore, and plop right back in the Atlantic.
These summer days in Nags Head, NC were idyllic to me.The Nags Head of my youth is different than it is today.The developers had not built rentals on every square inch of sand and the chains had not invaded the village.Old privately-owned beach houses dominated the landscape, enormous in size with faded cedar siding, wrap-around porches, and storm shutters framing each window to protect the glass from squalls and hurricanes. Few commercial establishments were within walking distance and they were typically mom and pop ventures. My friends and I would walk to the “Shell Shop” to loiter and look around, wait to see if any of the cute local boys would come by which they often did.On the other side of the Shell Shop was the soft-serve ice cream joint, another locals’ hang-out.I’d con my dad out of a dollar and head down there for a dip-top cone and uninspiring conversation.Sometimes, when feeling our oats, we’d walk the four or five miles to the Rodanthe Pier to play pinball and walk up and down the pier to see what the ever-present fishermen were catching.
We went fishing as well, in the surf out front to catch blues, in the channel to catch trout, and to the point to catch all manner of fish.Our congregation of beach-goers would drive on the sand to get there, all owning 4-wheel drive vehicles except us with our VW Bug.Once a squall whipped up and the surf rose enough to float our Super Beetle out to sea. I can still picture my father running out into the stormy ocean to retrieve it.
At low tide, we would dig in the wet sand for periwinkles, small, colorful shellfish.We’d clean them up and boil them to make a stew, rewarded by both a good meal and pretty butterfly-like seashells.We ate well at the beach, if a little grittily.
Inside, sand was a constant unbeatable part of life.Despite water buckets placed beside each door for foot-dipping, it was everywhere, sprinkled in our sandwiches, tucked between our sheets, and hiding in our bathing suits.I didn’t mind it though; it was a small price to pay for where we were; I could have stayed there forever and often wished it to be so.
Although it is still enjoyable, the today of Nags Head doesn’t look much like that Nags Head.In fact, the entire Outer Banks has mutated except for the beach itself and even that has been altered by the ever-present erosion from the sea and its storms.The sea oats and short slat fences, planted and built to avoid such a thing, present small and beatable adversaries.The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, whose long spiral staircase we used to climb at least once each summer, is in a different location now for this very reason and those steps are no longer open to the public.Vehicles on the beach are restricted or prohibited and I doubt anyone’s old Volkswagen has the chance to float out to sea.The mom and pop stores are sparse and corporate America has invaded the village and its residents, making Nags Head no longer just a summer place that shut down in the winter. Even Jockey’s Ridge in the village of Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers took their first flight and whose dunes we climbed repeatedly, is in danger of disappearing and is shorter than it once was.
Seeing the danger of making this a nostalgic, good ol’ days post, I realize my parents saw things with different eyes than I did.I’m sure they stressed about funds and schedules and things to do.Daddy often drove back to Tarboro to work at Black and Decker during the week before returning to join us for the weekends.My mother got a bad case of sun poisoning and could no longer enjoy the beach as I did and became the lady who sat under an umbrella covered in sunscreen and a full set of clothes.
But I had fun, pure unadulterated let-loose-kid fun.And I’ll be forever grateful that I did.
Happy Fourth of July everyone.Let the kid inside you out to play a while.