I sat outside with a stiff drink in what felt like a jungle and watched the rain watering my girlfriend’s exotic plant collection. The road was quiet, the streetlights ached to come on with the darkness blanketing the neighborhood with a shade of mulberry purple, though it wasn’t yet eventide. It was still too soon for the lights to come on, and too early really to be drinking at all for that matter.
While the rest of the country was drowning in Noah’s art-like floodwaters, the skies from Mooresville to Statesville, though heavy with swirling grays, were quite beautiful, especially over Lake Norman. I gazed at the water. It looked exotic, patches of green and purple water, changing color depending on the angle of the variable gusts of wind. With the rain came a drop in temperatures to more of a civilized reading on the thermometer. It has been a sultry August into September and only the insane or those with thin blood can handle it for any stretch of time. And I am one of them.
Before Ida arrived, it was hotter than the preheated oven into which Gretel introduced the cannibal witch. Sweating precipitously, I laid 10 or more bags of mulch, weeded, and mowed, and though I enjoy the heat and humidity like a Western boxelder bug, even I had to stop multiple times for water and to cool off in front of the fan. The sun over the past few weeks has been aggressive and I wondered if Lake Norman would simply evaporate revealing some hidden underground alien lair. We all might stand and gawk for a few minutes, but nobody here would be all that alarmed.
As Ida approached there was a considerable concern of homicidal weather within uncomfortable proximity of the area, strong winds, lightning, and deadly flash flooding. Ida appeared like a scorned wife, though compared to the horrors that people experienced in Louisiana or New York, the fallen tree in my yard was more excitement than terror.
It was not a quiet, calm lake that you imagine when you think of a day trip to Lake Norman for an afternoon picnic. Before me, I saw Caspar David Friedrich’s “The Monk by the Sea,” the energy, the vulnerability, the movement, and the unpredictability.
But aside from the fear and possibility of calamitous destruction, the sight of Lake Norman in the tail end of a hurricane is quite remarkable. It was beautiful and not in the Francis Bacon ghoulish art sense, but truly a picture of comeliness. If only I was an artist with the ability to capture, if just a moment, the brilliance. Never have I experienced a storm so thoroughly, saturated from head to foot, shivering, unable to move, and yet incapable of pulling myself away from that vista.
I did attempt it though, with a pen upon a napkin to sketch this sight. It was a lost cause. The napkin melted in the deluge along with my artistic confidence.
Of all the glorious sunsets I have watched, the rosy dawns and majestic afternoon spectacles of boats and birds on languid weekend afternoons, the power of this scene in the throes of a fading hurricane was overwhelming. My disappointment in my inability to sketch nature’s masterpiece was short-lived though, as flickers of lightning stole my attention.
Time seems to disappear when you are staring out over a large expanse of water in the middle of a hurricane. The present, the past, the future, it doesn’t matter at that point. It is just you there at that moment, surrounded by a beauty produced by violence, a paradox symbolic of life. Beauty created by violence is an oxymoron that will only be experienced over Lake Norman, no place, only here. It can only be seen here in this strange and magical place like Peter Pan’s “Neverland” or The Wonderful World of Oz’s “Emerald City;” Avatar’s “Pandora” or the “Shire.”
But it is just another factor that makes this location such a treasure.
Greg Evans is the associate director of communications at King University in Bristol, Tennessee.