You see before you evidence of my most recent literary obsession. The Outlander series written by Diana Gabaldon. She started writing this series in 1991 and the books continue to continue at least two more books worth. As I understand it, she is finishing up book number eight and rumour has it that there are no more than two more books before the story is finis. Currently, in the versions that I own, this is 16 inches of tale to be told including the compendium. Mercy! If you are a reader and you haven't yet heard of them, I do recommend them highly.
What sort of books are they? Kind of every sort. It's history, action/adventure, science fiction, romance and mostly what it is, is good writing.
I've been asked many times what sort of books I read. Well, I confess, I am an indiscriminate reader. I will read virtually anything, from the worst sort of harlequin romances, which are, in my mind, bathtub books (meaning that if I accidentally drop one in the bath while reading it and have to throw it away afterwards, I've lost nothing) to the classics, Beowulf anyone? And everything in between. What do I prefer to read? Well given the choice I would usually pick either a memoir, some science fiction or a bit of historic fiction. But my primo choice every single time is something that is written well. These books are written amazingly well.
The reader is drawn in immediately. We, the readers, care about the characters, and after a few chapters we feel as if we know these people and after the first hundred or so pages, we are right there in the story with the characters, side by side, living the tale with them. And the research involved? Nothing short of amazing. It's that research that breathes life into the background of the story, that's what gives these books gloss of authenticity.
Years ago when my parents were still around, my family had a book exchange going on. It wasn't formal of course, but as we are all readers, when we would finish a book, we would pass it on. Eventually a box would come in the mail to me. One lovely day a particular juicyfull box of box arrived. In it, amongst all the normal sized tomes were three huge books by an author I'd never hard of, Diana Gabaldon. Hmmm. How is that even pronounced? These books were weighty, at 800+ pages each. I read the back cover and was mildly interested but so busy that I set the three aside and read all of the others first. Eventually I read through all of the others and only these three were left. I started in on one and in no time at all, I was hooked.
I am a very fast reader normally, but these books made me slow down. I needed to savour, re-read passages, relish and delight in what I was reading. By the time the third one was done, I was online seeking others and learned that the series continued! Oh joy! I ordered the next and then the next until now when I'm anxiously awaiting the 8th.
Four or so years ago Starz TV channel began adapting this series into a television mini-series. Like most fans of the books I had some trepidation. Would they do the books justice? Can they? Will they stay true to the tale? Historically the translation from book to screen is disappointing. I had my doubts about this venture.
Three years ago the first season aired. It was amazing. While it's "my" show, Tim watches it with me. Hurley and Jessie began watching it. Season three is currently showing and never has a week been so long as the week between episodes of Outlander. I am a serious fan.
I had September 10th marked on my calendar for months as the first episode of the third season aired. And of course, Hurricane Irma was knocking on our door that night so, I didn't get to see it. Then the following Sunday we still had no power so I didn't see the 2nd episode either. But by golly, by the time power came back on and we were home on Tuesday..yes, Tuesday night I watched both, back to back and once again, all was right with the world.
I read the books over and again. And now I watch the mini-series over and again. I cannot recommend either the books or the shows highly enough.
The weekend is coming up. I actually won't be home on Sunday so I'll miss this episode but the TV will record it, thankfully so when we return, oh yes, I'll be right there, fully engaged and living the story right beside them.
If you haven't given it a try, do. I do not think you will be disappointed.
And by the way, I'm away all next week so please have a wonderful weekend, watch Outlander for me will you? Enjoy your week. And I'll be back in October!
I readily confess that on the short drive home that Monday post Irma, my heart was pounding with anxiety. What would we find? How bad would the damage be? How long would recovery take? How much would it cost? We drove slowly and carefully down our street noting the mountains of tree debris, the broken branches and entire trees uprooted but as soon as we pulled into our driveway we were relieved to see our house in one piece. The driveway itself was completely obscured by branches, leaves and fronds but that was no matter to us, the next question regarded the inside. Was there any water damage? We pulled away the sand bags and opened the door. The air felt musty and hot from being closed up and it was dark, but after a thorough examination I nearly burst into tears with relief. The house was sound. Intact and dry. How did we get so lucky?
Immediately after determining that our own home was fine, we took and sent photos to our neighbors assuring them that their homes too, had made it through. We slowly drove through our town making note of damage. Some carports, pool cages and trellis's were history, some centuries old trees went down and a few boats and cars showed obvious damage but while there was certainly water in the streets, no house was underwater and somehow, we all seemed to have made it through.
Next we drove out to my sister and her beau's place and took a few photos there which we sent to them immediately. Their place, which is on the water, did have a little bit of exterior damage. Some siding came off and one window popped out, but again, mostly tree rubbish. A LOT of tree rubbish actually, blocking the driveway and one side of the front stairwell. But the house was whole and there was no evidence of any interior leaks. Another great relief.
Still on the high of gratitude and our incredible good fortune, we collected our stuff and tidied up at our sanctuary condo and returned home to begin the clean up. It took quite some time to haul it all into big piles by the road but once it was done, finally we felt that we could bask in our good fortune and notified friends and family that everything looked good.
Once that was finished we went inside to relax a bit. Oh wait, we have no power. The water is back on, thank goodness, but no electricity. A little tip about Florida, unless you are a big fan of humidity, July through September is not the time to visit ANY part of Florida. October through June is fine, lovely even, but those three summer months are a beast.
We don't usually notice much. Even when we are outside in the heat of the day, once we come back inside it's nice and cool, refreshing and why yes, I do believe I will have a glass of iced water thank you. Okay no power so, that's not going to happen. And it's dark inside. We opened windows for what little air circulation there might be, but left blinds down to keep as much sun out as possible. So, without power, Tim cannot work. I cannot cook and without the refridgerator, there is nothing in the house besides cereal and crackers to eat anyway Cannot clean much and certainly cannot do laundry. The days grow long. The nights even longer. The air in the house feels suffocating at night. Tim moves from place to place throughout the house looking for a "cooler" spot and I tend to wander outside in the darkness where, while it is no less humid at least gives me the illusion of circulating air. Normally living this close to the water allows for a constant gentle breeze. But during this time following the hurricane, it seems as though the air is exhausted from it's recent efforts and there is not even the tiniest hint of wind.
But we are all *Floridians* in this together. Almost nobody has power in the state right now and we are all too hot and cranky from idleness and after surviving such a terrible storm it would seem ungrateful to complain. We are aware the linemen from all over the entire country are descending upon us to repair the damage as quickly as they can. We can be patient and uncomfortable and eat dry cereal and crackers and drink warm bottled water for awhile.
Tuesday we get the first newspaper in days. Finally contact with the outside world! We learned that more than 5 million...that's million, with two commas...in Florida are without power and there is not even a guestimate of when it will be restore. Days to weeks is what they say. We gulp and reaffirm our intention to be gracious and appreciative and patient. We take our cold showers, which in this case are rather refreshing, and occasionally take a drive to recharge our phones while looking for gas stations that actually have gasoline. We start eating out for meals as we find restaurants slowly opening again. But we are not sleeping.
Wednesday our library has power so Tim goes there to work during the day as best he can and I try to occupy myself. If we do anything remotely requiring effort the heat and humidity really affect us. Particularly me. For whatever reason, I don't perspire much and that means I do not cool off. More than a little over heated and on more than one occasion. I learn quickly to just sit and read. Try to not move much. There is no ice to be found anywhere in a reasonable driving distance. Gotta be careful driving around as there is still not much gas to be found. We are still not sleeping.
There are occasional power truck sightings so we know power is being restored. Just not at our house. Disappointing. But we are still being patient and grateful. Though as the days drag by, it gets harder.
Thursday dawns just as hot and humid and powerless as the rest of the week. Tim sits in our courtyard under the umbrella through the morning making phone calls and finally, at long last, paydirt. He has found a hotel that we can move to for two days. Despite our intention to rough it, we need to sleep and Tim needs internet connection to work. We hurriedly pack and off we go. The hotel is two towns north and how they manage to have power we do not know but we also do not care. Phones charge, Tim's computer is up and running and he is back to work. For two days we have hot showers, cold drinks, internet access and we sleep like babies. It is glorious.
Saturday however, we are back home. We thought having the break would refresh us so that we could tolerate the conditions at home again. Instead, the contrast has made it worse. We decide to tough it out. Surely power will be restored soon. We see pockets of obvious reconnect to the powerlines here and there. It's not a big island, surely it will happen any moment. Tim makes more phone calls. There are no hotel rooms available. None. And we are back to not sleeping. We are told that power will probably be restored by the 22nd That's 7 more days.
Sunday, my sister texts me asking if our power is back. When I tell her that it is not, she informs me that their beach house has power although it is on a boil water restriction and we are welcome to stay for the duration. Thank you thank you thank you! We are packed and on the road in a half hour. Sunday and Monday, Tim is able to work with ease, I try to make myself useful cleaning and doing laundry but mostly enjoying air conditioning and hot showers. But as grateful as we are for our luxurious shelter, we cannot stop wanting to go home. Every day, at least once, we go home, pick up mail and the newspaper and check to see if the power is on. Every day it's not. We feel a little bit like refugees.
Tuesday afternoon a neighbor texts me. There are power trucks on the street behind us. We are afraid to be hopeful. Several hours later I receive another text from her, "Power Is Back!!!!" The prettiest words I've heard in a long time. There are no sweet nothings anyone can whisper in my ear that will ever affect me quite like hearing, Power is back. We clean, pack and decamp as quickly as possible and return to our cute little house by evening.
And I find that I've learned something I guess I always knew. Dorothy was right, there really is no place like home.
Now that it's all over I realize that we learned a lot. For one thing, although we do not often get severe storms here (I believe that last one was 15 years ago), a generator might be a good purchase. For another, I've learned to say Yes, thank you when people kindly and sincerely make a generous offer. It is not easy for me to accept help but there are times when I need to swallow my pride and say Yes. I've learned that we like it here in spite of the Very Rare occasion of a hurricane. Since our house was built in 1962 there have now been three. No, we are not moving because of something that might happen three times in 55 years.
We learned about things like "storm surge" and sand bags. We know to always have bottled water and fresh batteries on hand. We now own sleeping bags (on the list for staying at shelters) and a solar powered lantern. We learned that this house, while old and still in need of some updating, is rock solid. And we learned what terrific neighbors we have.
And I think the two things we learned the most were to be appreciative for what we have and that as long as we have each other, it's all good.
Curiously enough, about two years ago, we were out to dinner with our good friends, Marsha and Paul, and both couples were talking about upcoming vacation plans, y'know, where to go, what to do, where to stay..... And I said, innocently enough, that of late I was more about new experiences, doing things I've never done before. I said something about how as I got older I was realizing that time was running out for me to do everything, go everywhere, try everything. Our friends nodded in agreement and that was kind of the end of that part of the conversation. I believe I meant things like RV camping in a National Park or travelling by train instead of car or airplane. I'm pretty sure I didn't mean encountering a massive hurricane. My fault for not being more specific.
We knew that hurricanes were a possibility before we moved here. But the small likelihood of having a full on hurricane smack us in the fact here in Venice was at least one of the many factors that has us choose our little town. For whatever reason, Venice just manages to avoid the worst of what Mother Nature has to offer. Local rumour has it that this area is protected by the spirits of the Calusa Indians who once inhabited this place about 12,000 years ago. Other people say it has more to do with the relatively shallow water plate on Venice's gulf exposure. Who knows. I do know that we were banking on at least one of those being true.
We certainly has plenty of warning. Media weather reporters were quite clear on the possibility involved with Hurricane Irma. As she churned closer it was just about all anyone talked about. We watched and read these reports with interest and a small amount of concern. Eventually we talked to locals. The long time residents were first concerned then full out worried. Many of them left way ahead of the evacuation order. There were reports from the travelers that the roads were nigh on impassible, arteries completely clogged with cars, reports of many accidents caused by frantic drivers and of course the news that gas stations were rapidly depleted.
Having no idea what to expect, we stayed calm. When the local report came out that sand was available locally for sandbags, it stood to reason that we should take advantage of that. So Thursday before the storm I drove to the designated spot. Sure enough, lots of people filling read sand bags and more people filling garbage bags. I asked about that. Sure enough, they ran out of real sandbags. It's BYOB and the second bag is for bags. Ahhhhh, see? Learning already. I managed to secure out allotted 10 bags and placed them, as recommended on the west side of the house. Apparently that is the vulnerable side of the house here and it's supposed to be protection from storm surge. As we are only about 4 blocks from the ocean, (it's a small island, nobody is far from the ocean) we were told that it was a very real possibility that the house could flood. Ok. Duly noted.
Another thing we learned was, 'Hunker down against the wind, run from the water". So it seems that the water is more to be feared than the wind. Okay. Committed to memory. After that, the rest of Thursday and Friday was spent purchasing "hurricane food", that is lots of water and food that requires neither refrigeration nor cooking. tying down everything tie-down-able. Moving bicycles and garbage cans inside. Inside we moved things up in case of flood, trying to leave as little as possible on the floor or down low. Moving up books from lower shelves, for example. Unplugging everything, lowering all blinds and closing curtains. Turning off the power and water. Learning that on the back of the house we have a hurricane curtain and figuring out how to use it. Securing valuables like important papers. And trying to decide where to go. Spent a lot of time working on that.
Friday night the sunset was beautiful and the sea was a calm as glass. It was hard to reconcile what we saw with what was lurking in the distance.
Saturday was the day we had to make the decision. Evacuation orders went out but there was a lot of confusion. The official lists of where to go weren't up to date. Oh dear. We stayed in close communication with two sets of friends here both of whom live on our street. We all discussed possibilities, where to go, when to leave. It was a time of indecision on everyone's part. We loaded the car with essentials and set out We tried one shelter, it was full up already. We tried another on the list and it turns out it wasn't opening as a shelter this time around despite the full parking lot and endless line of people waiting to get in. With gas being used driving around looking with little clear direction and little chance of being able to refill the tank we grew more concerned. Finally we received a call from one of our Venice friends. We were offered a second floor condo that was currently renter free by the owner. Bless them. We are grateful beyond words. Off we went. We got the keys and the tour from the owners just before they took off to their own bunker of choice and introduced to a few other residents of the building that were also in house. Relieved to have a spot up high and uncertain as to whether or not it was the best choice, we alternately settled in and watched news reports. We were invited to join some of the other residents gathering by the pool that afternoon for drinks and snacks.
Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We chatted, a few people swam. It was a lovely afternoon despite the underlying tension and worry. In the midst of the stress as we sat there pretending that everything was fine, I noticed while there were no birds at all which is unusual, no lizards, no bunnies or squirrels, there were butterflies. Four of them, endlessly circling us, The entire time we sat out there, which was several hours, these butterflies flitted around and around the group bravely acting as if it was an ordinary day. I chose to take it as a good sign.
I think part of what was so unnerving was that the weather guys kept saying, this was an unprecedented "weather event', and that they had never seen anything like this before and they were unsure about the hurricanes path. The eye could travel virtually in any direction but regardless of the direction, everyone in the entire state would be affected. Well that kind of sucks doesn't it. I think we were more concerned about the fate of our house than ourselves. We did talk about it a little bit. At one point Tim said that if the house was destroyed, well we still owned the land and so we would buy an RV and live on the land in the RV until we could rebuild. Ok. At least we had a plan. We got antsy and took a late night walk. The streets were so quiet we felt as if we were in a Twilight Zone episode. But the sky was beautiful.
We ate cheese crackers with guacamole. It wasn't bad.
There was no sleeping while we waited. The TV was on the background, usually old black and white tv shows and movies, but occasionally Tim would flip to the weather just to update us. It will drive you crazy if you keep watching and listening to the words of doom. We read while we waited. And a funny coincidence. As I read the following words, at the exact same time, someone on TV said almost the exact same thing:" We are, each of us, more than we think we are: stronger, smarter and braver." Timely. I said, "Thanks, I needed that."
Sunday morning at about 7:30 Irma made landfall in Key west as a category 4 hurricane. We had just light rain and it was a little windy. We continue reading and watching old TV and weather news alternately. Occasionally we talk with others in the condo. As the wind and rain increase the weather guys are telling us that Irma is on a direct path for us. Interesting. What do we do? Where else would we go? We decide to stay. We watch out the window as trees falls and lights flicker. Occasionally there is a crash in the streets below as something large and metal first hits the road and then skitters down, pushed by the increasing wind. We busy ourselves taping up the windows in the condo where we are riding the storm out and then helping others do the same. Some people's windows are leaking and we help to continually mop up. We lower the blinds as the wind and rain increase in intensity hoping that if the windows break it will be at least some measure of protection. We text with our friends and relatives (we have two nieces in a town east of here). They have all lost power already. Shortly after 8 pm we lost power and water.
We continue storm tracking on our phones, caught between not wanting to use up the phone charge and needing to know what is coming. The storm is scarier in the dark. The building shudders and trembles against the storm and the rain sounds like bass drums. The wind is a combination of banshee wails, freight train, ghostly moans and demon shrieks. Near midnight I see an exceptionally bright light flashing. I peek beneath the blinds. It's lightening but not the zigzag bolts that we usually see with thunder cracking. It's more like giant flash photography. The entire sky lights up white yellow, orange and white light for just a second. My storm tracker has moved the eye east of us. A relief.
Monday morning, when the light finally dawns, it's still raining and windy, but not as furiously. We realize that this is 9/11 and for the first time in too many years, this date will be not only the anniversary of the worst enemy attack on American soil but it will also be the day we know that we survived the worst hurricane to ever come ashore. As soon as possible, we will go to the house to see how it fared. We know our friends are okay and our nieces survived as well. We are ridiculously elated to still be together and in one piece. While we are concerned about the house, we have multiple recovery plans and we know that whatever else happens it's okay.
Stay tuned for Part Two, the Aftermath.
This is how pretty the beach looks today. It's deceptive isn't it. Hard to believe that there is a monster of unprecedented porportions bearing down on us. Even hard line old timer Floridians are getting nervous. As well they should.
We are preparing to do whatever we need to do. The house is buttoned down as well as it can be and we are packing today, anticipating evacuation.
This is a fast moving storm which is good news because once it lands it will be gone within less than 24 hours. So we will know what chaos it left in it's wake rather soon.
We expect power outages of course, normal with any big storm regardless of where a person lives. So even if we can immediately afterward return home, I won't be able to get online and once the charges run out on our phones, we will apparently be off grid. It'll be like the 1960's again! Retro flashbacks!
Keep a good thought for everyone here in Florida if you will and honestly anyone anywhere in the path of this beast.
Sending hugs out to all of you, wherever you are.
Todays headlines. And it appears that we are about to have an unexpected visitor. Irma.
We have learned that in Florida, even if you aren't alarmists, which we are not, or doom-mongers, which we are also not, a wise person still pays close attention to any talk of hurricanes. It's still too early to know the general neighborhood that this hurricane plans to make it's final destination but it is large enough to affect all of the state in some way regardless. It's looking like that is just a fact at this point. Okay. So when I did my usual weekly grocery shop yesterday, I added a few items to my list that I wouldn't usually buy. Some water maybe, a few things that don't require refrigeration or cooking to eat perhaps. Nothing big.
When I arrived at the plaza that holds my local Publix, the parking lot of nearly full. That surprised me. This is off-season. I didn't know there were enough people left on the island to fill the parking lot. Then I walked into the store. There was not a single shopping cart left. Me oh my. Back out into the parking lot I went to fetch a cart and then trundled back in. All the way in this time. It was an insane asylum. Instead of people doing the usual up and down the aisles in a calm and orderly, logical fashion they were whipping back and forth across the store, on their cell phones the entire time, throwing things into their carts willy-nilly, crashing into endcaps and narrowly missing other shoppers. I was both shocked and appalled. Some people had more than one cart. The first being entirely filled with water, the second loaded with food stuffs and toilet paper. I didn't buy much. And of course, there wasn't much left to buy anyway unless you wanted fresh produce or frozen foods. Long Lines at the register and still nobody wanted to help bag their own groceries but they got cranky about how long the lines were. Geez people. Breathe!
I've seen the same behavior in New England and in Colorado ahead of an anticipated blizzard. Bread aisles empty. Water aisles empty. Gas stations with no more gasoline. Long lines and grouchy people. Same thing just with palm trees and much warmer. I think the biggest difference here is that the same lines are also at the DIY stores. People purchasing plywood to cover their windows. Hmmmm. Well. Interesting.
Just a few mintues ago I got a phone call from a neighbor telling me to go to the city municipal building to get sand bags. Apparently we are allowed 15 per household. So I suppose I ought to go see to that too. Being a novice at all of this, I suppose we will learn as we go. And after it's all over we can say, next time we will do more of this and less of that.
There is a kind of a limit to what a person can do to prepare for this. It's coming this way regardless of what we do.
Mostly what we will do is continue to pay attention, leave if they tell us to or we feel really uncomfortable about it all and keep our wits about us. Are we worried? There is no point in worrying. It serves no purpose at all. We are, however, staying alert. There is definitely a Hurricane Preparedness learning curve. Lucky for us, we are fast learners and Tim is really good at thinking on his feet. I, on the other hand, while always calm, am a slower thinker an under-reactor. We do not panic. It's just not who we are. But we are willing to learn and hope we will make the correct choices.
Wishing everyone in the entire state makes good choices. Good Luck to us all as Irma comes to call.
We are doing the very thing I dislike most in my little world right now. That's right, we are once again, living in chaos.
Everything is higgledy-piggledy, shoved wherever it would fit to make room for painting and all that requires. Ladders, cans, brushes and rollers and roller trays as far as the eye can see. Newspapers, paper towels, plastic bags and blue tape lay here, there and everywhere. There are tubs of spackle, screwdrivers and sand paper sitting in corners and I can't find anything I'm looking for.
I know I've whined before about painting so I won't do another refrain of that. Today is about doubt. We chose the colour after much thought and consideration. We even, eventually, agreed upon the colour. And now that it is on 3/4 of the walls we are experiencing some doubt. We were certain at one wall. We were positive at two walls. Three walls began the hesitation and now that it's a new day, looking at it in the light with the eyes of a brand new day, we wonder if it was the correct choice.
I suspect that part of the doubt is seeded in the fact that the colour chosen is such a total departure from the previous colour. Well we hated the colour that was in that room so I suppose that's a good thing. And then of course, it's not a colour I, personally, have ever selected for any room I've ever painted (and they are legion!) so perhaps that's part of the hesitation. And then there is just the newness of it. As with most people, change can be a struggle. And yet that newness, the differentness, the unexpectedness of it is what we were looking for, so what is our problem?
Personally, at this point, we have so much time and effort invested that I'm thinking, just finish it. Just do the doggone job and be done with it. I can be practical to a fault. Tim is more about being open to possibility. Bless him for it.
So far I've managed to not spill any paint and dripped very little. I finished up the day with none on my clothes or in my hair. I got none of the new paint on any furniture, the floor, the rug or the ceiling and the neighbors dog is paint-free. This is a new level of painting cleanliness for me. Let's hope the trend continues.
And things being what they are, and me being the one doing the work solo today, I plan to finish taping the other side of the room, painting the edges yet unpainted, and maybe even doing a second coat on some of delicate, not-so-easy to paint bits. I think I'll be fine with the colour once I get used to it. And that just comes with time.
Or maybe I just want my room put back together again and things where I can find them! By the end of the week I am planning to be able to say, Another Job Well Done! Woohoo!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.