We could hear other storms afoot that missed us, to the north and to the south, and for a while there was one to the east that looked to be about the size of Mauna Loa, but we weren’t affected. In this part of the world summer thunderstorms can travel in packs, and the storms in these packs can be any size from the width of a county to the size of a football stadium. Due to storm turbulence the wind blows from various directions, and it is not unknown for the same storm to travel ten or fifteen miles, then turn around and come back.
The general chaos inflicted by thunderstorm packs can sometimes be a bit much even for people who really like stormy weather. Friday the 13th’s third Full Moon Iris Torrent blew in just before sunset, which this close to the solstice falls a bit after 9:00 pm. We had no trouble hearing the approaching thunder and seeing the increasingly brilliant electrical displays. At first Storm # 3 appeared to be coming from the northeast. But when the rain actually struck it seemed to be coming from all points of the compass simultaneously. Minute by minute it rained more furiously. Soon we could not see the street. A moment or two later we could not see the driveway. Then the storm reached full whiteout conditions, which normally makes me slightly nervous since I have long had a superstitious belief that the larger tornadoes hide inside these whiteouts.
Faced with a density of water that would batter most fish senseless, were they to be flung up into it somehow, one might be forgiven for thinking it couldn’t really rain any harder. One would be wrong. It proceeded to rain quite a bit harder, although it was still possible to hear the thunder overhead and see the radiance of the lightning, if not the actual bolts. Finally, as the storm reached a crescendo, the rain began to spit out ice. Hail like volleys of gravel ricocheted across the ground, the windows, the gutters. By turning on the porch light, I could see in a dim subaqueous way that the front iris beds were now half an inch deep in pellets of hail. Then the sky began to lighten, the storm began to lessen, and the Blue Ridge reestablished itself on the horizon as a purple band of mountains under an orange band of sunset.
We had to wait until morning to learn what had happened in the deer-proof fortress of chicken wire we call our garden.
Plants of course have lived with disaster much longer than humans. Lots of early plants, for example, survived the Permian Mass Extinction, 252 million years ago. Though so far as I know nobody has yet found a fossil tomato, tomatoes have been around for a while or two and have developed certain clever tricks, such as waving back and forth, having fibrous stems, etc. Several of the tomato plants in our garden were beheaded, but this doesn’t bother them as it would you and me. The tomatoes are fine.
basically just a collection of tubes attached to wide, delicate, easily destroyed leaves.
I managed to find the exact center of the storm. It was over the Armenian cucumbers in the corner of the garden.
I call this variety the “Vampire Pumpkin” for its practice of wrapping suckers around other plants it meets and jerking them out of the ground. It does not like competition. Just hours before the storm, I had transplanted our surviving eggplants beyond the reach of the Vampire Pumpkins after several of them had been thus ensnared and jerked up by the roots.