Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Hurricanes were a major influence on my recent trip to the Lone Star state; the birding mecca of Harlingen my destination, and quiltmaking my purpose for being there. A little storm known as Dolly, only a category 2, didn’t even set off alarm bells in my head for, after all, surely this minuscule hurricane must be little more than a strong thunderstorm. My first inkling of a problem at hand came via the telephone. Program Chairwoman, Jan Beaman, called to ask if I would share her home for the duration as there were NO available hotel rooms in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Hmmm! Perhaps the baby hurricane was more worrisome than I thought.
As my flight winged its way south from San Antonio, I began to notice increasingly large swaths of water, flooded fields, roads, and even rural ranch homes surrounded by muddy moats. My hostess greeted me with thanks for going ahead with the trip given the circumstances. I, in return, thanked her for the offer of her home for the next few days, beginning to better understand the challenges associated Dolly’s aftermath. “Our workshop space had a little water in it, but it wasn’t too bad. We aired it out, and worked there all day yesterday with open doors. I don’t think the smell will be too noticeable,” the apologetic Jan explained.
Then, there were the streets, or rather the sides of them. Each curb was stacked human-head-high with branches, leaves, and other storm detritus. Backyard fences lay drunkenly astride alleyways, prone where the storm had tossed the twisted timbers. My planned birding adventure might be curtailed too, another victim on Dolly’s wrath.
But, the Texas ladies, sturdy and resilient to the core, showed up for class just as if it were just another summer day, ready to design and sew. And, sew they did, with remarkable aplomb, laughing along with their instructor, as each new concept was introduced. What I had never before experienced, though, was the amazing productivity of the Frontera Quilt Guild. At the conclusion of Sunday’s class, students were about as far along as expected, with completed designs, and a little completed stitching.
Monday was my big birding adventure, under the capable and cheerful leadership of locals Judy and Viva. Stop number one revealed none of the Red-crowned Parrots at their normal roost. A huge tree lay across the road, possibly signaling an end to this roost site. Then it was off to a flooded resaca, birding in Judy’s personal wilderness of a back yard, and to Resaca de las Palmas, the newest state park, not yet officially open. Groove-billed Anis awaited at the trail entrance, an indicator of some of the wonders of this refuge. However, the wonder soon turned to misery by black clouds of mosquitos swarming each human body. Maybe that’s why the anis were hanging out at the entrance where there was a little more breathing room. The bloodthirsty little buggars just followed us right back to the car, and about 40 of them climbed right in with us. Some serious swatting enlivened the drive to Sabal Palm Grove, where there were still plenty of mosquitos, but at a more tolerable level. Turns out that hurricanes are good for mosquitos, with all the flooded ground providing ample breeding grounds. I wonder if these little pests are capable of laying eggs, hatching, and morphing into biting adults in less than 20 minutes. Sabal Palm Grove was all that I had hoped for, and it even produced a life bird, a Yellow-green Vireo.
After lunch, we proceeded to South Padre Island and the World Birding Site: The Boardwalk, however, our walk ended before we even set foot onto the famous birding area. Much of the railing was lying on the marsh grasses, although the base seemed sturdy enough. A quick turn around revealed luxury beachfront hotels with gaping holes, with signs of destruction obvious throughout the island.
The big surprise came Monday night, at the Frontera Quilt Guild General Meeting. While I was busy birding, the ladies were stitching away. All but one student, showed up at the meeting with a finished product, a first! Kudos to this enthusiastic and energetic bunch.
Now, those of us that live in the desert don’t think much about hurricanes. While I was aware of the second baby storm, Eduoard, swirling across the Gulf of Mexico, it never entered my mind that our paths might actually cross, but they did. Upon checking in at the airport, the gate attendant announced that there was a weather advisory in Houston due to the arriving storm. A delay was possible. But, I wasn’t worried, because I wasn’t going to Houston; Dallas was my layover location. What didn’t occur to me was that this particular flight had an interim stop – in Houston. Descent into the storm revealed thunderclouds within other clouds. As each cloud boiled up within the stormy cauldron, I began to truly understand the power of this superstorm we call hurricane, even if it was just a little one.