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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Poole

Dancing with Dorian

Choosing to live four miles off the Carolinas coastline is a package deal. I am happily held captive by the sea breezes and salt air and would be the first to admit that proximity to the beach is beyond a fringe benefit for me. It’s sort of an obsession.

There’s something about being by the ocean that has a nourishing effect on me. It helps me to recalibrate, unwind, and find my way back to presence and center, which, as anyone who knows me would confirm, is my lifelong work. I hold that work as a noble pursuit, even as I find myself beginning again and again and again. I’ve made friends with being a remedial learner of mindfulness and embrace it as my never-ending frontier.

And then there’s the surface level part: The beach is my favorite place! I’ve been a Coppertone girl for as long as I can remember. It’s pure joy for me to frolic in the water, walk the beach in search of treasures, and lie on my lounge chair with a great book in hand. Yeah, I know – skin cancer and all. My concession is SPF-30 unless my husband is rubbing it on my back, in which case it’s probably SPF-50. I’ll deal with it. But I won’t stay out of the sun!

My happy place outweighs the risks of living so close to the sea, including the annual thing that is hurricane season (not a big Jimmy Buffett fan, but his line, “Trying to reason with hurricane season” always comes to mind). We’ve had a few close calls and a lot of fire drills over the past several years, and people where we live have grown pretty used to hearing worst case scenarios and admonitions to evacuate, but it seems more and more of us are electing to wait it out and roll the dice. Call me a lemming, but I find myself squarely in that crowd.

And then came Dorian. I lost track of how many days this hurricane dawdled in the Atlantic, gaining strength and taunting everyone and everything in its wake. Its slow course made it difficult to track, even as it churned and ravaged the poor Bahamas, confirming forecasters’ worst fears that this was, indeed, a monster hurricane. It became quickly evident that the East Coast was in its path (and no, it was never Alabama, but that’s a topic for another post…).

The debating began. Stay or go? We conferred with our kids, my sense of comfort needing to know at least that we were all staying, or we were all going. We wore out the Weather Channel and our various storm apps, but in the end, decided to get ourselves provisioned and ride it out.

Because we’ve been through this drill several times in the past few years, the prep work is now down to a science. We know what to do, and my husband and I set about our respective roles in battening down the hatches, seemingly without even needing to consult one another about what was needed.

By around 4pm on Wednesday, September 4th, we were as ready as we were going to be. The wind was already whipping the trees around and the sky was a curious mix of light and dark and swiftly moving clouds. Pockets of cold and warm could be felt in the heavy breeze and there was an electric charge in the air.

This was too good to miss. So even though we had already packed away all the porch furniture, we brought out our two chairs, deciding to just “be in it” and watch the storm roll in. I had this sense that making friends with Dorian and welcoming him in could be more helpful than seeing him as the enemy. About that time, we noticed that the hummingbirds were buzzing around like bees in a hive, twisting and rolling and frolicking in the drama unfolding all around. So out came the hummingbird feeder, which had also been packed away, but was close by and ready.

For the next couple of hours, we were treated to an incredible nature extravaganza on our humble little back porch. The sky somersaulted with turbulence. The breeze turned into a serious wind. Palm trees and our crepe myrtle bent and swayed and did their best to remain rooted. And the hummingbirds seized the moment to twirl and zoom and cavort around like a bunch of happy, punch-drunk sailors, buzzing and divebombing one another, and careening through the porch with wild abandon.

Near the end of this incredible little show, two lone hummingbirds chose to light on either side of the feeder and proceeded to gift us with a dance that would rival an expert pair of synchronized swimmers, while we sat mesmerized. They bobbed and swayed and lifted and dipped, and finally fit themselves together to fly off into the distance as one, instinctively knowing it’s better together, and sometimes infinitely easier.

Gifts come in big and small packages. Sometimes they’re a fun and glitzy surprise, and sometimes they’re a quiet whisper, just when you need it. Sometimes, when you get really lucky, they are the spontaneous bursts of nature, reminding you that we are all of part of this, and when we pause long enough to drink it in, we are reminded that we are surrounded by miracles.

Even in the midst of a hurricane.

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