This was no ordinary storm. Our little town had experienced severe storms before, but I could not remember one like this. The wind had a new sound, ominous and forboding. The pitch was higher and created an eerie inescapable tension.
We were all huddled inside, my three children and I, listening, waiting. The rain and hail arrived next, out of nowhere. Driven in a torrential and violent explosion of noise and fury. All the while the wind kept screaming, egging it on.
Somewhere in between the chaos we remembered Bunsel, our pet rabbit who was still inside her hutch outside. Jaclyn my eldest, with a shriek of guilt rushed outside and we all followed to save our precious bunny. Out on the veranda the hail was building up into ‘snow piles’, and more kept coming as rapidly as spit-fire.
A sudden flash of lightning illuminated the garden in front of us and we all gasped at the same time. branches were lying everywhere! Another flash and someone exclaimed, “it’s the whole freaking tree!”. A huge crack of thunder sent us scurrying back inside with our rescued Bunsel tucked under one arm.
No one was brave enough to venture outside after that. We all sat huddled together in my bedroom upstairs with the shivering Bunsel. By now most of the cats had joined in the huddle too, there was nothing to do but wait for it to end.
The next morning it had ended as most storms do, with a spent out and exhausted silence. We walked around outside in dazed disbelief. Only realizing then just how bad it had actually been.
What looked like half of the old Cedar tree had come down. In the process taking with it other trees, shrubs, a water feature, concrete pots, two telephone poles, and one poor Hadeda ibis. The Hadeda had become trapped by a branch that had fallen and was now pinning it down by it’s wing. We managed to lift the branch and free the poor thing who waddled off to join his or her mate, who had been waiting faithfully and anxiously near by.
There are two ways that people generally react to stress. They either become super efficient and capable, stepping into leadership, delegating and taking care of the situation. Or, their brain quite literally switches off. I am of the latter. My brain turns to putty and I find it difficult to string coherent thoughts together, never mind speak actual sensible sentences. I go into a sort of dazed zombie mode.
Zombie mode or not, there were now enormous tasks ahead. No one is going to come and stay at a guest house that looks as if hurricane Katrina just passed through for a warm up. So the many phone calls were made. The irritating process of trying to get hold of our significantly less than efficient telephone service provider just to come and asses the damage, never mind repair it, was a nightmare. I had no internet – as that was dependent on the phone line. I now know what a ‘dongle’ is – I did not then.
It was over a weekend, by the time Monday arrived I had a string of double bookings to sort out. Guests had booked online and I had no way of knowing, I was taking bookings by phone and manually putting them into my calendar. The problem with disasters is that they seldom arrive alone. They invite friends, at least two, just for fun! Just a week before the storm hit, someone had side swiped my vehicle. On top of that the main geyser to the house section of the guest house had burst a few days before, right at the tip top of the double storied roof. I found myself resorting to plans A,B,C,D, and even E!
The telephone/internet problem aged me by ten years I’m sure. The phoning, pleading and eventually begging would be repeated almost daily until a whole two months later the new poles were installed! It took a month for the geyser claim to be approved, and another month for the solar geyser company to drive out to Dundee to install it! Eventually my car was booked and repaired, yes – two months later.
Our beautiful big Cedar tree had provided quite allot of shade and privacy. Now we were left with a gaping openness once all the branched and mess had been cleared up. Frankly it was depressing. Soldiering on however, the water feature was fixed, pots were replaced, and I began to think of new shrubs and small trees to fill the gap.
Pouring through my books on indigenous trees and shrubs, I began to feel more optimistic about the bare spot in the garden. I could plant it up with my own indigenous favorites, a chance for change. Eventually three Buddlej’s were planted – two auriculate’s and one salviifolia. These are commonly know as butterfly bushes – and for good reason. The auriculata flowers in july, providing a heady sweet honey scented perfume that fills the entire garden. The salviifolia, which has similar flowers but sage like leaves, starts a month later and into Spring. It has just started now and is heavenly, especially in the evenings. A small copse of three River indigo shrubs was also planted. Another of my favorite indigenous shrubs. These flowered beautifully during the Summer and the growth was very impressive for one season.
The exotic Mock ornge shrub, allthough quite damaged, we decided to leave in place and allow to recover. It is a nice neat evergreen shrub or small tree, also with scented creamy flowers in spring. Ours had never really flowered much before but it did have nice attractive glossy leaves and once trimmed back I thought it would shape up nicely again.
About a month after the storm our humble little mock ornage decided to surprise us. It suddenly began to flower as if there was no tomorrow, putting on a show stopping display with it’s creamy white flowers, exploding into life.
This to me although surprising – as it was late Summer already, seemed so apt. Such a beautiful metaphor for regrowth, vigor and second chances! I look at the once damaged piece of the garden and cannot believe how it has changed in such a short space of time. It is fast becoming my favorite part by far!