Tag Archives: great dismal swamp

Draining the Swamp but not the One You are Thinking About


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been an exhausting day as I used my shop-vac to remove over 250 gallons of water from my back yard. Since the yard was graded by the builders toward the house the deepest areas were on the patio. The water in the yard ranched from an inch to five inches and after 14 days in which 12 involved rainfall amounts of an inch to three inches a day there was no way for it to drain or evaporate. The rain stopped Monday afternoon and Tuesday was sunny and dry, but there was no noticeable change in the amount of standing water in the back yard. The water was at the very threshold of our back French doors and found was to leak into the house, but thankfully not much got in and we were able to prevent any damage and dry things out before thinks could get worse. But I had to  get the water level down as rain is back in the forecast beginning Saturday and will last several days.

We live in an area called The Tidewater which includes southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The term was the name given to it by the early English gentry settlers as a polite term for a swamp. Speaking of swamps, the Great Dismal Swamp, aptly named by George Washington in his pre-General and President days when he was a surveyor is about 20 miles from where I live.

We have plenty of other swampland, and swampland that has been developed or paved over, including the parcel of land where I live that makes coastal flooding, or flooding caused by major rain events a rather routine experience, made worse by Global Warming and Sea Rise which has created a crisis for the United States Navy, which does not deny either and even produced a report on the danger.

The Tidewater is the home of Norfolk Naval Station which is the largest Naval base and the home port of five Aircraft Carriers. Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth is the oldest and the second largest government shipyard in the United States, it overhauls nuclear submarines and carriers. Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story is the home of East Coast SEALS, EOD, Expeditionary, Coastal and Riverine warfare units, as well as Amphibious ships and amphibious support units. Naval Air Station Oceana is the hub for East Coast Naval Aviation, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, is the Premier Naval Medical Center on the East Coast now that Bethesda is part of Walter Reed. The Tidewater is also the home of Joint Base Langley-Fort Eustis, the home of many Air Force Fighter Squadrons, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Transportation Center and School, and a host of smaller installations critical to national security, as well as the home of Newport News Shipyard, the private shipyard that produces all of our nuclear Aircraft Carriers, and conducts their mid-life reactor overhauls. Believe me, my problems with my backyard are very small potatoes compared to the national security issues to our nation represented by Global Warming and Sea Rise, which by the way Norfolk at the Sewells Point Buoy has the highest rise recorded on the East Coast in over a century.

How the hell did I go there, this was all about me initially, but then maybe it wasn’t. Many ordinary homeowners in the area face similar issues that I face because of unscrupulous real estate developers who stripped away the topsoil and built directly on the clay often not grading the soil away from the homes they built. In fact the developer who built our development and many others in the 1980s and 1990s ended up in jail when exposed for all of his deceit, fraud, and criminal negligence that he inflicted on people.

But let me go back a bit. We have a lot of low lying land and many inland waterways in addition to being on the Atlantic coast. Much of the land has minimal topsoil with a thick layer of clay just below. It doesn’t drain easily especially when the natural wetlands that provided protection were paved over in the name of progress, without any thought about the long term damage to our area.

So today I vacuumed out and dumped in storm drains in the front of my house those 250 gallons or more of storm water. Tomorrow I meet with a contractor to get gutters and stains that will direct storm water out of my back yard. Next week  a contractor begins work on painting and dealing with other work inside the house and my front porch. A friend has an electrician who will fix a couple of issues and replace my rare baseball motif ceiling fan in the kitchen and Judy’s Tiffany Coca Cola hanging  light fixture also in the kitchen. I will be getting another contractor to fix my storage shed. I’m waiting on my window contractor to get the new windows and install the  and then I will be ready to put on the market, hopefully no later than 1 April.

In the meantime I need to arrange for a POD unit to take out things that need to be removed for work inside and and sort through to determine whether to keep or discard and to ensure we can stage the house for sale. With what we have done and what we are doing I expect to get a lot more than we paid for it, just based on what the same house and floor plan are going for today.

I have more to write about but it can wait until tomorrow night, or rather later tonight.

So until then,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under Climate change,, History, Loose thoughts and musings, national security, Political Commentary, US Navy

Till the Smoke Clears: A Reflection on PTSD and Faith

A morning drive in Iraq, looks like that here too

We are in a drought in Eastern North Carolina and with that drought have come forest and peat fires in the areas surrounding the Crystal Coast. The fires have now shrouded the summer sky with a layer of dense smoke and the National Weather Service is predicting poor air quality and visibilities of a mile or less.

I had been noticing it periodically over the past few weeks and occasionally the stench from the fires would catch me unsuspecting and send me back to Iraq. Anyone that has served in Iraq can testify of the pall of smoke from burn pits and in locations around the cities and countryside of Iraq. Those afflicted with PTSD often have a heightened sense of awareness to things that most people take for granted such as noise, light and smell.  Having experienced this myself and talked to many more men and women that served in Iraq, especially those with PTSD these normal parts of everyday life now seem to be hard wired into our brains along with a need for safety and a certain level of hyper-vigilance.

Sand smoke and clouds

I had to drive to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point for my BLS recertification at the Medical Clinic this morning and the sky was weird hue. It reminded me somewhat of Iraq and the smell of the smoke hit me as did the sound of helicopters and jets taking part in a large exercise.  For a fair amount of the trip I was back in Iraq.  When I returned to LeJeune I had to stop by the UPS Store for a simple transaction and as I was filling out the paperwork someone barged in and slammed the door to the store as the sound of bombs exploding on the bombing ranges of the coast of Camp LeJeune went off. About that time a police car roared by with its siren wailing, just like they did in Iraq. I had to about put myself back into my skin as I remembered a morning doing PT near the perimeter of Taqaddam air base when an explosion rocked the town of Habbinyah less than a mile away with gunfire and sirens following the explosion. That’s some good living.  Hurriedly paying I got out of the store got in my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V and got on the road. As I drove west toward the base the smoke was worse in places as was the stench.

Sunset in the smoke and sand and a smoky day in ENC

I got back to the Hospital and took care of what I needed to do and went home. On the way out the door I could not find my Blackberry. It was nowhere. Not in my uniform, my desk or anywhere. I wracked my brain wondering where it could be.  Then I thought that it had to be at the UPS store, the Cherry Point Clinic or the Cherry Point base gas station.  I was beginning to hit panic mode but was able to calm down and as I drove back home toward the UPS store I just prayed that I had left it there. Thankfully I had and the very kind lady that runs the store had safeguarded it.  Evidently when the other customer had slammed herself through the door I had dropped it out of my hand without even noticing.  That old startle response is still there and thank God for life in small towns.

I finally arrived at home relatively calm and turned on baseball. As I fixed dinner I could hear more bombs exploding on the ocean bombing range which is only about 6 or 7 miles away from my apartment.  Meanwhile the aircraft were much more active even deep into the night. I turned up the television and hunkered down on my big bean bag, finished an article that I began yesterday about the Battle of the Philippine Sea and tried to tune out the aircraft and the occasional explosion.

Hanging on at the end of the Iraq deployment with RP1 Nelson Lebron

A friend of mine recently wrote about the “tentacles of PTSD” which I think is an apt description of the neuro-sensory reactions that are part of life with PTSD.  While I have had a lot fewer reactions over the past few months I have noticed an increase of hyper-arousal and hyper vigilance as these stimuli trigger physical responses to perceived danger.

I remember when I was collapsing in the summer of 2008 there was a rather large and long burning fire in the Great Dismal Swamp. I walked out one morning and the smoke was so thick that the sky looked just like Iraq between the smoke and sandstorms.  That was the day that after a daylong seminar on combat and trauma that my medical officer looked at me and asked if I was okay and I said that I wasn’t. In fact that was around June 16th 2008.  It marked the beginning of me recognizing that I was different and damaged and that nothing was the same including my faith which was shattered to the point that for all practical purposes I was an agnostic. But that day was also my first step to healing.

Now I do not expect a major crash because I am a lot more aware of what is going on and what triggers me. At the same time I do feel less safe in large part due to the sights sounds and smells that are running rampant and reminding me of Iraq. They say that the smoke will be worse tomorrow and the temperatures will also rise into the mid-90s, low by Iraq standards but enough to increase sensitivity to the sights sounds and smells that I and thousands of other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the area will experience.

Eventually the smoke from the fires will clear away and with it the neuro-stimuli should decrease and life will return to my “post Iraq normal” where the hyper-vigilance will subside a bit. In the mean time I have the wonderful privilege of caring for and providing ministry to those who like me have returned from war changed.

My faith which was shattered when I returned from Iraq has returned and while I still have days where I have doubts I am no longer an agnostic.  I am able to be with those that doubt and even those that have “broken up with God” to use the term of Sarah Sentilles, especially those who had their faith damaged by war. I see a lot of that here as well as a lot of men and women that have doubts but try to hold onto faith while battling PTSD, TBI, depression, substance abuse and even suicidal thoughts.  Many like I did probably have to lie to their friends and families about their doubts, fears and struggles because most people don’t want to hear them.  When people do start talking they become “radioactive” to use the term of Dr. Robert Grant.  For me that openness cost me friends in my former denomination and led to me being asked to leave it in September of last year. I am better for the experience but it is still somewhat painful as I see more young men and women coming home from war not only injured or damaged in mind body and spirit but also wondering about the war itself and feeling cut off from their countrymen.  No one likes to talk about that but there are tens of thousands of veterans including many still on active duty that struggle with all of this.

Yes the smoke will clear someday, I am confident that somehow God’s grace mercy and love shown to us in Jesus will get us all through.  Until then we wait for that day when the smoke clears and we can see clearly.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

A Soggy and Error Filled Night redeemed by the Long Ball: Tides win 11-6

Drying out the infield

Before they were the Norfolk Tides they were known as the Tidewater Tides a reference to the rather quaint sounding name for the south side of the Hampton Roads region.  The Tidewater it is still called by many who forget that the term Tidewater is a rather polite term invented by travel agencies and developers to replace the rather dismal word “swamp.”  In fact the southern part of our region is taken up by the Great Dismal Swamp which is both rather large and rather dismal a good reason that it was named as such by none other than George “I’m on the Greenback” Washington.  Of course there Things in Norfolk went from bad to worse back to just bad before getting much worse before becoming incredibly good unless you play for or are a fan of the Indianapolis Indians.  The weather was lousy even by Hampton Roads standards for this time of year with drizzle and rain falling for most of the game making conditions for those playing on the field rather atrocious. Eventually 7 errors would be committed, 5 by the Tides on this rain filled evening that turned the infield at Harbor Park into muck.

Nolan Reimold beats out an errant throw at first in the 6th inning, Robert Andino and Michael Aubrey scored

The game began inauspiciously for the Tides, starter Zach Britton struggled through the early innings before giving up 4 runs in the 4th inning. Britton loaded the bases giving up a single, a base on balls and a bunt single.  Alex Presley grounded into a force out to score Luke Carlin. With two outs Britton picked off Presley when he got too far off the bag resulting in a run down. During the run down Robert Andino threw the ball away allowing Carlin to reach third and Brian Friday to score.  The pickoff would have been the third out and Britton would have gotten out of the inning giving up just one run.  The next batter was Brandon Moss who tattooed the ball over the right field wall to give the Indians a 4-0 lead. Britton would struggle again in the 4th inning but work his way out of the jam and he would be relieved by Mike Hinckley in the top of the 5th.  Hinckley went three innings allowing only one hit and no runs walking none as striking out 4 Indians.

Nolan Reimold contributed a 3 run home run and hustled on the bases

The Indians would hold that lead into the 6th inning.  Starting pitcher Charlie Morton pitched well for 5 innings limiting the Tides to just 1 hit in the first 5 innings. In the 6th the wheels came off in large part due to the weather doing to the Indians what it had done to the Tides earlier in the game.  Michael Aubrey singled and advanced when Robert Andino got on due an error by Indians Third Baseman Doug Bernier.  Nolan Reimold grounded softly to third base and Bernier went to make the play and threw the ball away into foul territory past first base. Both Aubrey and Andino would score and the score was 4-2. In the 7th Morton walked Paco Figueroa and was taken out of the game in favor of Travis Chick.  Chick had little success. Matt Angle laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to send Figueroa to second. Jeff Salazar singled and Figueroa went to third. Michael Aubrey doubled to score Figueroa and send Salazar to third. Robert Andino singled to score Salazar and was followed by Scott Moore who singled home Aubrey sending Andino to third.  Nolan Reimold grounded in a force out and Andino scored before Chick retired the side with the Tides now leading 6-4.

Jeff Salazar hit his 15th home run of the season

Alberto Castillo relieved Hinckley in the top of the 8th and gave up a single to Brandon Moss and double to Mitch Jones. He got Jim Negrych to ground out which scored Moss and then gave up a double to Jonathan Van Every to score Jones top tie the game at 6.  Castillo got the hook for Jim Hoey and Hoey stuck out both Luke Carlin and Brian Friday swinging to end the inning, the final pitch to Friday registered 98 miles an hour according the scoreboard radar.

A soaking wet Michel Hernandez waits for the grounds crew to do their magic

No with the score tied the Tides went to work and began to beat the Indians senseless. Daniel Moskos replaced Chick and gave up a single to Paco Figueroa. He struck out Matt Angle and with one out faced Jeff Salazar. Salazar leads the Tides in home runs but had not hit one since before he went on the DL.  Jeff plastered a pitch by Moskos far over the right field wall and the Tides led again by a score of 8-6.  The Tides were not done however and after Michael Aubrey popped out Robert Andino doubled off the right field wall.  Andino stole third and Scott Moore walked.  Nolan Reimold stepped to the plate and he too delivered the long ball going the opposite way and sending Moskos’ pitch over the right field wall nearly to the Elizabeth River.  The Tides now led 11-6 and finally and mercifully for the Indians Rhyne Hughes grounded out to end the inning.

Denis Sarfate got the closed out the game striking out two

Denis Sarfate came in to close the game in a non-save situation.  He sent the Indians down in order striking out Doug Bernier and Brian Bixler swinging and got Alex Presley to ground out to second baseman Paco Figueroa who threw to Michael Aubrey at first to end the game.

The win was the second come from behind win for the Tides in as many days and in this game Jim Hoey (3-0 2.16 ERA) got the win and Daniel Moskos (0-4 9.60 ERA) the loss. The Indians had 6 runs on 8 hits with 2 errors leaving 6 men on base, the Tides 11 runs on 11 hits and 5 errors with 8 men stranded.  The teams meet tonight at Harbor Park with Henricus Vanden Hurk newly acquired from the Marlins by the Orioles making his first start for the Tides and Micheal Crotta (5-5 4.88 ERA) on the Hill for the Indians.

Hopefully the weather is better tonight than last night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, norfolk tides