What I learned today at Hurricane Creek.

This is how we remember the Creek, how it appeared in our minds when we planned our picnic there today. And then there was this.

And now there is this.

A “this” with a disorienting and shocking effect.

When I first realized that we were at the campground gate, I just burrowed my head between my knees, speechless, trying not to cry so that the kids could enjoy our visit.

As I walked through the new terrain, trying to find words to process the destruction, I saw a familiar white ponytail- quite possibly the only person I felt like hearing from at that particular moment. Mr. John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper. Of course he was at the creek, working, building, dreaming, keeping hope alive.

He explained how he’s been trying to restore the campground and creek area to Patrick and a fascinated Max. Using the sawmill purchased by Friends of Hurricane Creek, John has been cutting the fallen trees into usable “white oak” lumber. Max was amazed to find that John knew the age of the cut trees- “I’ve counted their rings”.

The first time I met John, I remember being impressed by his contrasts- the fiery passion for preserving Hurricane Creek combined with a quiet reverence for its ecosystem and the mysteries of life.

Talking to someone who nourishes such an intimate relationship with nature is the best way to inspire children to develop their own intimacy with the world around them. Max found John riveting.

When John explained how he was cutting falling trees into planks and that he used those planks to build the shade shelter (in progress above), Max jumped up and down:

“You mean you’re recyling the wood to rebuild? You’re not letting it go to waste! You’re just doing it all perfect so Hurricane Creek can recover…. Oh, I just know it will, Mom. It’s going to be beautiful!”

I want to see what John and Max see. Right now, my eyes tell me there is a long road ahead and the role of Friends of Hurricane Creek is more critical than ever before.

Max jumped into my thoughts with a plea- “Can you ask John if there are any magic kinds of wood here? I want to make a magic wand for Ellie and I need the wood.”

Of course John was happy to oblige- and happy to show us an ironwood tree that survived the storm. Before Max could jump ten times, John had cut a long branch from the ironwood and given it to Max, remarking on the strength and resilience of the tree’s nature.

Micah surveyed the new scene, and pointed out that the creek was green- a good sign. Or, at least, a sign that not everything has changed.

But the change which startles also presents an opportunity- a chance to study and observe an ecosystem as it recovers from natural disaster. A chance to tally every new growth, to measure short-term effects of natural cycles, to learn so much about a topic that will come to matter more as our climate continues to change. Pleasejoin us. Please be a part of this change. Please don’t hesitate to email me and let me know if you have suggestions, observations, or a little time to spare.

No suggestion is too small. Max quickly informed me that he wants to come back “as soon as possible” to gather more materials for magic wands- “This place is FULL of magic, Mom!”- which he plans to sell to raise money for the Creek and for John’s work. So Max has a plan. And I’m working on a little plan which involves extra lumber and paint. It’s your turn.