Bigger, better, stronger and more resilient than ever

By TIM BEELAND,

It is pretty much a given that as time goes by memories fade. I suppose that was the case for me on Monday when a press release popped up in my e-mail box reminding me that this was the week that a terrible storm named Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast before focusing her wrath on all of us residing in south and central Mississippi. I had totally forgotten. How could that be?

All I have to do is take a gander to the left when walking down my front steps each morning and there standing at the corner of the porch is our personal Katrina memorial. If you’ve been to the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 2005, the year of the storm, you’ve likely noticed the magnificat carvings that were done along Beach Boulevard using the trunks of trees destroyed by the wind and water. That’s kind of what we have in our yard. Kind of!

Before Katrina there were two huge old cedar trees that shaded our porch and living room from the afternoon sun. Only part of one survived the storm. The other, the one toward the front of the house, was taken down as were so many trees. The only difference between that cedar, and the pecans, and pines, and oaks that fell in Katrina’s winds is that the entire trunk remains.

The trunk and one big ole branch at the top of the tree that reaches toward the porch. It somewhat resembles an outstretched arm and gnarly hand, with twisted fingers pointing toward the front steps.

That trunk, our daily Katrina reminder, is now home to a bird house, a bumble bee house, and a big swarm of yellow jackets, as well as wind chimes, a water chain, and a funny looking owl face. It is also lit up with white lights at night. The base is surrounded by a flower bed, made from the bricks of a fallen chimney, and is home to a wide variety of perennials that seem to thrive in that spot.

There are lillies, and mums, and gladiolas, and lots of flowers that I have no idea what they are. I just know that they come back each year and it seems bigger, and better, each time. But the one thing that never fails to impress in that bed, there at the base of that tree, is an old timey pink, and purple and white petunia that grew there well before the storm and the death of the cedar.

The petunia is by far the healthiest and showiest flower there. It gets bigger every year and at times looks as if it is going to overtake the entire bed. But then in the heat of the summer it slows down somewhat and by this time of year is beginning to look pretty pitiful and begins to fade away.

It never dies though. In the winter, even the bitter ones and the ones that offer up a couple of days of ice and snow, that old petunia thrives. In fact, during the winter, though there are few blooms, the foliage is thick and a deep, rich green. The leaves are velvety and healthier than anything found at a garden center or farmer’s market.

As spring arrives it begins its flowery show and the cycle continues until summer when the heat and storms begin to beat it down only to start all over again.

That petunia is like the people of New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and all of us up here that watched what was ours tumble and fall in late August of 2005. Like that flower we are resilient and when we’re knocked down we come back bigger, and better, and stronger.

That’s what we did after Katrina and that’s what we do every day. Perhaps I should remind myself of that each morning as I look to the left walking down those steps and each evening as I look to the right climbing back up them. Perhaps I will.

Seriously now, how could I have ever forgotten?