MARY READY: Hurricane harbingers and holding out hope

Mary Ready, Ready or Not
Mary Ready

So, if you’re driving down Kelly Street on the west side of Destin, and you think you’ve just run over a cat, don’t panic. Instead, you’re just running over my pears, and it’s all my fault.

At this time of year, during hurricane season, the breezes pick up strength and shake the limbs of my pear tree in the front yard. In retrospect, it wasn’t a good idea to plant it so near the street, but I never dreamed it would get so big or so fruitful. And I never thought its bounty would create flying objects. In late July and throughout September, that tree is laden with huge, juicy pears. The dent in the roof of my truck is testimony to just how big and heavy these rascals are. It’s getting to be a nuisance, especially when it drops loads of leaves and broken branches onto my yard, its fruit falling faster than I can gather it. I give pears away to friends and even strangers on the sidewalk, but no matter how much they stagger off with, there’s more, more, more. I refuse to chop it down because my late father planted it where it stands, and almost every time I pass by it, I think of him, and say, “Daddy, we sure made a dumb move when we planted that tiny little tree all those years ago.”

But back to the pear puree part and why it’s my fault. The higher winds and heavy rain during hurricane season are strong enough that the pears become airborne, ending up in the road. I try to pick them up, but Kelly Street is something of a racetrack for local drivers. So, I figure it’s better for the pears to get squished than me. Please accept my apology for the mess. The street will be clean with the next rain once the tree is bare.

In my side yard are the happier harbingers of hurricane season. Known as “hurricane plants,” or “Naked Lady Lily,” or “Spider Lily,” the Lycoris radiata shows no foliage at first. It produces a cluster of nail-polish-red flowers surrounded by red spidery stamens. After the blooms have faded, foliage finally appears, then quickly disappears. In fact, the plant simply vanishes, making the gardener think it’s dead. But then comes next September, mid hurricane season, and it re-emerges in glorious color. For me, it’s another sign of good things to come. Autumn, with its crisp mornings and cooler afternoons, is on its way.

Just as the Bible tells us that when the fig tree puts forth her leaves, we know that summer is near, so do my pear tree and my hurricane lilies tell me that a change of season is coming. My fig tree is currently laden with fruit, to the delight of the birds who apparently assume I maintain that tree just for them.

It’s really all about hope. Symbolically, God gives us these natural harbingers to remind us He’s still in control, and the world will go on. We are not exempt from the storms of life any more than we are the actual storms that churn out in the Gulf, whimsically deciding which community along the coast to strike.

But let’s be grateful, so far no hurricanes this season.  In fact, Florida hasn’t had a landfalling hurricane in the past eight years. For calendar markers, June 1 to November 30 is the official season, with the peak period from early August through the end of October.  All of us ultimately HOPE 2014 will be a mild hurricane season as predicted. 

The best way to honor the hope that nature gives us is to help others. Whether it’s writing a check to feed the hungry, visiting a lonely shut-in, carrying a weaker person’s heavy load, serving as a Hospice volunteer, etc. The list is endless of all the big and little things we can do to help others.

I recently discovered a link between the word hope and the word help. In archaic English usage, “holpen” is the past participle of “help.” And in Appalachia, you may still hear mountain folk say, “I’m holpen him plow his field.” Or, if it’s about thinking positively, “We be holpen things turn out alright for you.” From that, I draw the conclusion that hope depends on how much help we are to others. We give them hope for the future when we extend a helping hand, and we in turn get blessed by something good just around the corner. Or as Psalm 86:17 says, “Thou, LORD, hast HOLPEN me, and comforted me.  

My little harbingers of hope, the fig tree, the messy pear tree, and the hurricane lilies, are doing God’s work when I help someone in need.  

At least, I’m a holpen so.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.