In the end, practicality won out over aesthetic appeal, and the powers-that-be installed recycled plastic benches along our marina’s walkways.
Less attractive but more comfortable than the previous teak and metal benches, they serve their purpose admirably. Dog walkers, boaters, sunset-watchers, and elderly residents who’ve misjudged their stamina vie for empty spots. Friendly though the competition may be, it’s competition nonetheless.
The bench nearest my apartment serves an additional function. Close to a corner where wind and tides swirl and eddy, it’s the place in the marina where every sort of flotsam collects. In addition to wooden planks, leaves, and pollen, the corner occasionally captures the odd styrofoam cooler, boat fenders, life jackets, and — just once — an escaped kayak.
When tides are high enough for useful items to be retrieved, they’re usually picked up and left near the bench for anyone who can use them. The life ring propped on the bench above was only the latest example. When I saw it, I assumed the polypropylene line holding it to a boat had distintegrated and set it free..
As the weather began to turn ahead of Hurricane Harvey’s arrival, the life ring disappeared from the bench. I thought, rather idly and with a certain grim humor, that it might have been wise to find another line and tie the life ring to the bench. Only later would I discover how appropriate that would have been.
South Shore Harbor wasn’t always an upscale neighborhood with a conference center and a fancy marina. Decades ago, before the developers arrived, the natural hurricane hole filled with work boats and shrimpers seeking to ride out the inevitable storms in safety. Today, if space is available, recreational boaters from around the lake will move into the marina, and it serves them just as well.
As Harvey’s rains began, the protected waters rippled lightly, but the winds that had devastated the middle Texas coast never arrived. Protected from the east and the south, the marina remained almost placid: except, of course, for the rain.
As the hours passed and the rain continued, the brick walkway filled with water, and the water level in the harbor began to rise. A lone snowy egret appeared, walking the still-accessible planks as it searched for tidbits.
In spite of the gathering darkness, its “golden slippers” fairly gleamed.
Before long, some mallards joined the party, apparently undisturbed by the rising waters.
In time, as water covered the promenade, they began to swim off, leaving the bench to fend for itself and leaving some humans to wonder, “How much higher is this going to go?”
It wasn’t long before we had our answer. At one point, the entire bench disappeared beneath the water, providing an illusion of lakefront property.
As the water rose and the availability of land diminished, displaced creatures began to gather on the lawn. The gulls tended to cluster,
while the mallards, apparently unconcerned, preened in the shallows.
On the other hand, not every duck seemed happy. This pretty Muscovy/mallard cross seemed quite cross as he crossed the flooded sidewalk, stomping his way through the rain. I sympathized. He seemed to know that, like the humans around him, he was “watered in” — constrained by the forces of the storm to make do until it passed.
I first heard the phrase “watered in” from a friend in the Texas hill country. Living atop a ridge in flash flood country, she often found herself perfectly dry but unable to travel: not unlike my own experience during Harvey’s pass through town.
Trying to travel in the midst of a flood never is a good idea, as this fellow discovered.
A deer swimming across a marina isn’t a usual sight, to say the least. After checking out the docks and finding them inaccessible, he finally emerged on land and considered his options. Going back into the water, he began swimming down a smaller channel where he had access to a ramp and could make his way to a more congenial environment: perhaps the golf course across the street.
During the two-day period of continual and torrential rains, the relentless pounding clearly began to wear on everyone. This little dove finally overcame her fear and landed on my balcony. After discovering some dry seed and making a bit of a glutton of herself, she hopped into the shelter of a schefflera and promptly went to sleep.
And this young mallard hen? Still a teenager with not-quite-developed wings, she seemed unsure about the world she hatched into. I wouldn’t be surprised if her question wasn’t the same question being asked by multitudes of humans: “When is this going to stop?”
In another day or so, of course, it did stop — at least for these harbor dwellers. The seagulls began flying, the dog-walkers began walking, the humans began congratulating one another for having survived it all, and the wonderful plastic benches emerged from their bath none the worse for wear.
As the system moved away, the wind shifted into the northwest and the clouds began to part. In fewer than six hours, the combination of wind and tide dropped the water in the harbor by nearly six feet and bits of thrilling blue sky began to appear.
By sunset of the sixth day, a warm golden light suffused the harbor, and the waiting bench had dried.
Of course, no one has taken the time to sit down. We still have things to do.
Comments always are welcome.