Waiting for #6
July 21, 2011
The past couple of days we have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of typhoon #6 – the first in this years typhoon season to pose any sort of threat to us. Being up in the mountains, yet near the coast, we have to take the typhoons very seriously. These are steep mountains prone to landslides in heavy rainfall events.
Having harvested a quantity of tubers and roots, charged up batteries for flash-lights, and discussed our evacuation route we settled in for a house-bound couple of days and some wild weather. And as the rain settled in we got to doing what mountain folk have done for hundreds of years when stuck indoors: quilting and making alcohol.
That night I slept lightly, waking regularly and listening to gauge the heaviness of the rain or the wind picking up. It was a quiet night. Some time around day break I woke to the gentle shake of an earthquake. So gentle I wasn’t sure at first. Staring at the light bulb hanging from the ceiling to detect any movement I began drifting off again when there was a slightly stronger unmistakeable shaking. Earthquakes, typhoons, tsunami, land slides…Never a dull moment around here.
It rained all day but not so heavily. I checked the stream a couple of times and it was running clear. The stream is our early warning sign (along with the wild animals). Clear water and all’s okay; brown, there is some erosion occurring in the hills behind us, be alert; black, get on to a ridge asap!
There was very little wind and a beautiful misty rain rolling through the hills. The forest was drinking thirstily, glistening and vibrant. The bamboos, “the feathers of the forest,” are always spectacular in the rain. As they get heavy with moisture they droop and sway gently like a bright green Mr. Snuffleupagus slothfully emerging from the forest.
The rain picked up in intensity overnight but in the morning the stream was still nice and clear with a marginally increased flow but certainly not raging. No doubt, thanks to the previous days gentle rain, the land was nicely moistened and able to soak up all the rain during the night. As the day progressed the rain eased off for a beautiful cool evening. Huh! all this anxiety about our first big typhoon and what we’re actually getting is a welcome reprieve from a swelteringly hot sticky summer.
Sitting outside cooking over the steady flame of the rocket stove the sky turns a magnificent lilac, fringed with the moist green of the forested mountains. A splinter of a thought lodges itself: a microwaved meal in a 10th floor Tokyo shoebox apartment. Where the hell did that come from? I quickly remove and discard that splinter by looking down the valley as the dusk sky imperceptibly changes from lilac to mauve. Should we ever have to evacuate I’ll be following the deer and “evacuating” deeper in to the mountains in the opposite direction from the road, that leads to the village, the town, the city.
What would such a spectacular dusk light-show be without a soundtrack? The insects are in full voice. A magnificent cacophony that is ear splitting if you really focus on it. It is exactly the sort of all-engulfing, physical, sonic tsunami I used to strive for in my compositions. Stop making and start listening, looking.
Over night the wind really picks up. Massive gusts wake me and I hear the clatter of a sheet of corrugated iron covering a pile of firewood – with rocks on top – lifted and dropped. Lying on the tatami listening to the ferocity of the winds outside I dread what is happening to the garden. The poor beans climbing up their flimsy bamboo supports completely exposed to the gale. Its really howling but in bursts that are ten or fifteen minutes apart. Which does nothing for the nerves. It gets all calm and then…wallop!
Morning. The beans are looking okay. Much to my surprise all the bamboo structures supporting them are still standing. Some poor Jerusalem artichokes (sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus) have not feared so well. Their slender stalks lie almost horizontal on the ground. Another patch of Jerusalem artichokes is well sheltered and standing tall and proud. The corn looks terrible. Half the crop flattened. Truth be told they weren’t looking so fantastic before their battering though. Neglected early in life they were struggling to get established. Oh well, I guess the monkeys, wild pigs and crows won’t be feasting on corn this year.
The day is blustery but the rain has stopped, the sun returned. #6 has swung back out into the Pacific away from the Japanese archipelago as it continues its journey north. A narrow escape. A sigh of relief. An anti-climax. #7?