Date: 7/14/20 7:56 am From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...> Subject: [VTBIRD] July 14, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
5:54 a.m. 60 degrees, wind E 1 mph. Sky: congested and electrified; the sound of severe indigestion rolls above the valley; tendrils of moisture, rising everywhere and everywhere holding up the clouds like pliable Greek columns; the heavens pour and rumble and flash. Branches hung with rain, the driveway needs therapy, and the roadside gullies run full. The road itself resembles an aerial view of a Great Plains drainage, dendritically arranged with the main channel and a down lesser branches. Permanent streams: full-bore, gushing, loud, brown as the Mississippi; the main channel scoured and reamed; water striders flushed into wetlands. Intermittent streams: once disabled and dry, arose from the dead; each a watery Lazurus that pours with renewed urgency; earth-brown and leaf-strewn. Wetlands: lush and swollen; green with satisfaction. Pond: over-flow culvert surges with fire-hydrant intensity; raindrops dance on the surface. Ancient big-toothed aspen: a limb broke in the wind, hangs by a thread, dense and straight down, awaits appointment with gravity. Ash seeds litter the road.
No mosquitos. No deer flies. Birds: mostly silent and motionless. A pair of red-eyed videos, stupefyingly tedious, sing, barely audible above the rain and rushing water. Flashes of lightning illuminate the clouds, which glow for a hypnotic moment, eerie and scary but spellbinding. A world renewed, washed, as fresh and temporary as the morning light.
Three days ago, the big toad that hunts the garden and the front porch, feasting on bugs chummed by lettuce and porch light, appeared in the barn soaking in the dogs' water bowl, head barely above the surface, legs spread . . . my new yardstick for dry. A parched landscape amid a deluge. Much too much water to absorb. So it runs down, over, around; fills basins and footprints; floods channels; overwhelms rivulets and tributaries; gathers behind beaver dams, water levels rising like a tide. Every drop heads toward the Connecticut River: 406 miles long; drains 11,260 square miles; fed by 148 tributaries, of which thirty-eight are major rivers; pours into Long Island Sound at 19,600 cubic feet per second. The heart and soul of New England.
One long, brown pulse of water heads downhill, seeks Long Island Sound. A yawning gulf, however, between aspiration and reality. Heading south, water must negotiate sixteen dams on the main stem and more than 3,000 on tributaries, as well as 44,000 road crossings. Because coursing water moves ceaseless and careless along paths of least resistance, not all structures, hold tight in flood. Throughout the Connecticut River watershed, Tropical Storm Irene (2011) overwhelmed 1,000 culverts and 500 bridges. This is *no* Irene, but the basin fills as though beaver were still aboard.
As a distraction from the strange world of Coronavirus, I began sunrise walks on March 15, the day after I returned from Costa Rica. A creative quarantine; A rediscovery of my homeground. Jordan sleeps. Dogs, faithful but puzzled, reluctantly join me on a visit along the ground floor of a storm. If John Muir, I reason, could glissade down an avalanche, why can't I walk in the rain? Off I go, footloose, and possibly addled. By the time I reach the pond, three-quarters of a mile from home, showers metastasize to downpour, thunder and lightning escalate. Sky flashes; clouds swell with light. A peal of thunder. The ethereal song for veery. A storm song, voice cascading out of dark woods, lightens a darker mood. Could there be a better finale?