Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

I’ve been continuing to read the many stories in personal mail and newspaper accounts of the impact of this summer’s and fall’s hurricanes and floods, and am working now on developing a story sharing experience with folks in our episcopal church parish. As bloggers, we are all accustomed to telling our stories, and sifting our experiences via the written word. Not so with most folks. As Tom Montag’s (The Middlewesterner) life work reminds us, everyone has important, moving stories to share. More than 6,100 homes were destroyed in the Pensacola area alone. Displaced folks are living in travel trailers, motels, and tents, and with relatives, friends and near strangers. Endless stories. Sharing them reinforces our humanity and helps us to evolve beyond the bottomless pit issues where only the names change.

“There are heroes in the seaweed There are children in the morning They are leaning out for love And they will lean that way forever While suzanne holds the mirror”. . . from Suzanne, by Mr. Leonard Cohen, bless his talented heart.

Maybe holding the mirror is something we can do, in our blogs and our off-line writing lives.

About a week ago, Denny Coates (author and former Book of Life blogmeister) and Kathleen Scott (fabulous photographer, writer and Denny’s soulmate) added comments — one to a post called “Full Circle” and the other to “Behold” in which they wrote poignant post-hurricane updates from their home base in Vero Beach, Florida. Comments often get lost in the flow, so I’m re-posting them here:

from Denny. . .

“I’ve been so busy that I haven’t written much about what has happened here.
But I can clearly see the value of your journal-like posts about what has
happened in your part of Florida. The impressions need to be captured. We
need to keep writing, begin writing again.


After the second storm, when we were able to return to the island, we saw
everything blown over, blown down, broken and all the leaves on everything
had been blown away. It reminded me of winter up north. It was
disheartening. As Kathleen put it, “It hurt my feelings.”

As soon as we could, we stood everything up again and reinforced the soil,
not knowing if this would do any good. A few weeks after Jeanne, nearly
every tree and bush has new leaves, at first tiny, then pushing up as young
branches. Even the bouganvillea, which was cut to a stump with a chainsaw,
has sprouted about a dozen new leafy branches, each about three feet long.
The habiscus bushes, bare only a couple weeks ago, are covered with leaves
and some flowers. I know these plants have well-established root systems,
but I’m amazed at the life-force asserting itself. Maybe some won’t make
it…we’ll see.

Each day, we do something else to move forward. Each day, nature reasserts
itself with more color. Before long, the last of the debris will be picked
up and the streets will be clean. Eventually, things will be even better
than they were before.”


from Kathleen. . .

“Our plants are budding again. Most of
the natives and many of the tropicals and most of my heirloom roses will
make it, I think, a powerful testament to life. Makes me feel good
everyday to see life coming out of the destruction from the two hurricanes.”


Kathleen is right. My three scraggly rose bushes are blooming. Many of the leaves were shredded, but by God the brilliant blooms make a statement. Same for the damaged magnolia trees, where spring green new leaves are profuse, here at the Halloween end of October.

Flood-borne suffering spawned by the hurricanes hit our friends in Canton, North Carolina hard, that beautiful smoky mountains place where we spent seven summers in the Rice Cove community of Beaverdam. Yesterday, I read an affecting moment by moment account of the Hurricane Frances’ related flood there, written by Becky Johnson, staff writer for the Smoky Mountain News, a small weekly paper. It’s called Remembering The Flood, and I highly commend it to you. This is not a bloodless recitation of facts.

And finally, for today, a friend from Beaverdam wrote me a few days ago with some updates on the community and the Beaverdam Methodist Church folk and our former neighbors. The author, Betty Driver, is a recently retired high school teacher and long-time choir director at the church. When the phrase “salt of the earth” was coined, Betty might have been one of the prototypes.

excerpts from Betty. . .

“We are fairing well here now for the most part. The road still has some dangerous washouts, but that is about all the damage left here on Beaverdam. Harold and Hilda have a temporary bridge and can get in and out if a bit precariously. The church ceiling is still patched with plastic. They will have to take the steeple off to repair it and then patch the roof which involves a crane. They are trying to get all the people together to do the job. . . The town of Canton is slowly recovering although it will never be the same. The businesses are cleaning out and many will not be reopening. There is still no dry cleaner open. The debris removal is almost complete, but in some cases only shells remain from the town hall on down to the stop light going up to the post office. People are still in the process of cleaning out homes and some rebuilding is going on, but it will be a slow process which you can imagine since you can see it first hand. I have been working at the recovery center a few days a week. I have heard some very sad stories especially from the poor and the old. One girl was about to loose her leg and had lost everything in the flood. Her story was enough to make it difficult to keep a professional face. I almost cried. Another old couple came to get cleaning supplies and food. The lady was distressed that she had to have some help. She said she had never had to ask for anything before. Both the Baptist and the Methodists have building teams working in the area, but there are 400 homes to repair of tear down. People are having trouble finding places to go. FEMA is here and will not let some people rebuild. They may be the lucky ones since their property may be bought by the government. . .”

I salute us all this morning, all over the planet, in our common living, loving, struggling noisy humanity. Even the seemingly mundane is precious, and all we sinners are saints, too.




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