Monday, June 25, 2012

Singin' in the Rain

Wet clothing hangs to dry after a walk in Tropical Storm Debby's rain.

Head over to my post on Cowbird to hear the audio that accompanies this narrative. My story on Cowbird is reproduced below:

The front porch is strewn with detritus from Saturday's labors, marking the seventh hour of yard work conducted over four days: hedge trimming, tree trimming, weed whacking, bagging. This is Florida, where things grow fast. Three large bags squat beneath the overhang and behind the hedge, to be moved street side by Tuesday morning for yard waste pickup.

I had managed to dodge isolated and scattered showers during the week. On Sunday, Tropical Storm Debby arrived.

Technically it's not a tropical storm here; as I write this, we are under a tropical storm watch and have wind gusts of up to 21 mph, a brisk little breeze if you don't include the rain. The rain adds a coastal flood warning, flood watch, and tornado watch to our alerts. That's nothing compared to conditions in Tampa, 75 miles to the south.

Debby is pretty much hovering over the Gulf. That torrential rain isn't going away any time soon.

On Sunday I had taken breaks from my transcribing job to view photos posted online: a downed tree in St. Petersburg, a man surfing down his residential street, an alligator swimming past the submerged front yard of a charming single-family home.

"I don't know where this was taken," I wrote on Facebook, "but it must have been in a gatored community."

All day long, squirrels had taken refuge behind our hurricane shutters. I had greeted them a couple of times, lifting my indoor shade and talking to them through the window glass.

We live a block away from a retention pond that remains dry except during heavy rainfall. I had last taken my digital recorder to its banks in June 2006, fewer than 12 hours before Tropical Storm Alberto made landfall. The resident amphibians had been riotous.

There had been a storm named Debby that year, too. Weaker than this year's Debby, it had died over the northern Atlantic.

After nightfall I again took my recorder and stepped outside, to see what I could hear. The pond life was concertizing, barely audible through the rain. I stepped away, toward the water sheeting down from the gutters (about 25-41 seconds in, or with 2:45-2:29 remaining), then returned indoors and grabbed my yellow umbrella.

Any songs from the pond were drowned out by rain hammering against the umbrella as I left the shelter of the porch and began my walk down the block (about 1 minute in/2:11 remaining). First I had to wade across the large puddle separating my driveway from the road, and then cross to the far side of the road, away from the flooding.

The recording fades out during my careful walk, then fades back in as I near the festivities in progress. Soon, even the rain thundering on my umbrella wasn't enough to drown out the celebrants. In the low light from a smattering of yard lamps I could see that the pond had filled almost to brimming.

My shoes and socks were already soaked. Stepping onto a sodden bank made no difference. At the 2:05 mark/1:05 remaining I held my umbrella to the side, bent forward to shield my recorder, and spent roughly the next half minute listening to the amphibians sing full-throated as warm water pelted my back. Rain poured down my tee and jeans. No one saw the broad grin plastered across my face.

Clattering resumed as I raised my umbrella and set off for home. Fade out.

Sound fades back in during my approach to the porch and the water spilling from gutters. Fifteen seconds later I stepped beneath the overhang.

Command performance thanks to Debby. No ticket line required.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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