Just as she did in 1985, Mother Nature once again chose to inflict Labor pains on Florida, screaming through the Tampa Bay area, after imposing the early stages of her misery on the Treasure Coast and already tattered portions of Central Florida.
Those of us who were around for Hurricane Elena recall that she also was rather unpredictable, hugging our coastline for an extended period of time, prolonging the Labor Day weekend agony of those in her path. Though never making landfall here, Elena made her presence very clear, with winds and tides that destroyed homes and wiped out a piece of beach history – the Indian Rocks Beach Pier.
This Labor Day holiday (some holiday!) the scenario was straight out of a Hollywood movie script in which the typically serene protagonist, Mother Nature, suddenly takes on the menacing persona of Mommie Dearest. And, with Joan Crawford-like anger and unpredicability, Hurricane Frances shed her wrath on pleasure-seeking residents and guests of the Sunshine State – in prolonged, psychologically-destructive fashion.
This was drama at its best – or worst.
Just weeks ago, Hurricane Charley played the role of The Destroyer, very efficiently delivering his devastating blows with a one-two punch. Quickly and mercifully, it was over.
Frances, by contrast, will be remembered as The Deceiver, slowly creeping up on her prey – stalking, threatening, lingering for hours on end. And, like an attention-seeking performer not ready to take her final bow, Frances refused to leave the stage, insisting on one last curtain call up in the Panhandle, with audiences statewide eager to forget her nightmarish performance.
Peering out the window at a huge, majestic oak tree that has housed some of Mother Nature’s wild and carefree offspring for decades, it was heart-breaking to see limbs bend and eventually surrender to the howling force of the winds. Branches that remained precariously dangling are called widowmakers, I am told.
Mother Nature can be cruel, random and without remorse.
She now threatens to recharge her fury and return for a third act – this time as Ivan. Hopefully not Ivan the Terrible, or worse, Ivan The Big One.
Beyond the meteorological explanations for the severity of hurricane season, philosophically I can’t help but seek some understanding of Mother Nature’s message.
Waiting for Frances and trying like everyone else to figure her out, my mind wandered to the song “Nature’s Way,” by Spirit – the second verse in particular. Feel free to sing along, if you know the tune.
“It’s nature’s way of telling you summer breeze,”
“It’s nature’s way of telling you dying trees, ”
“It’s nature’s way of receiving you,”
“It’s natures way of retrieving you,”
“It’s nature’s way of telling you, something’s wrong ... ”
Meantime, even in the midst of the scariest, most powerful wind gusts Sunday afternoon, Mother Nature sent me a message via precise feline barometers. Blue, Skeezix, Jazz, Stormy and Zebo peacefully slept through the whole thing. Everything was going to be OK.
Mother Nature, in whatever forms she takes, demands our respect and full attention.
Let’s hope her mood swings improve for the duration of this season, and that paradise doesn’t once again morph into a macabre house of horrors.
Chary Southmayd is the editor of the Belleair Bee and Entertainment Extra!.