Though the cacti may wilt

The lonely hummingbird feeder in the midst of the storm.

The mountains and hills may crumble,
but my love for you will never end;
I will keep forever my promise of peace,
So says the Lord who loves you.

~Isaiah 54:10 (GNT)

Evidence of the winter freeze last month in Texas still is apparent.

Our hummingbirds are gone.

Before the freeze, more than one dainty bird drank his fill from our hummingbird feeder hanging off the deck.

No birds came for a sip of sweet nectar for three weeks after the freeze. One hearty bird arrived Sunday; I suspect he was migrating north, and we were only a rest stop.

Pieces of this tree blocked the walking path for a while.

The trees in the cedar forest in which we live suffered lost limbs, broken by the weight of the ice, many of which still hang limply from their bodies. There simply hasn’t been enough time for the housing development’s maintenance workers to prune them all.

The palm trees, planted on fancy estates around Lake Travis, are definitely dead, and cacti all over may not be dead but they are much worse for wear.

Century plants appeared ready to reach out and grab passersby before the freeze.

I believe this is a Century plant, agave americana, a unique succulent plant native to Mexico. They received the name Century plant because it was believed that they flowered every hundred years. In fact, most plants bloom in 20 to 30 years.

Century plant cacti are used like shrubbery around here. Before the freeze, they reminded me of Audrey II, the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

The Century plants after the freeze.

Now look at them. Theoretically, one can trim the dead leaves, but I think a lot of them are goners. They may never get their chance to bloom.

Elsewhere in the aftermath, I read news stories about the untenable state of Texas’ power grid, I hear news of armadillo infestations (only in Texas), and I see Facebook posts with smiling women wrapped in towels, grateful recipients of finally operational showers.

For most of us, life in Texas is back to normal. Temperatures now in March reach into the seventies and sometimes eighties, and it’s warm enough at dawn that I can do yoga on the deck.

But it was dicey there for a week in February.

It never got below zero in the Austin area.

A hearty Minnesota might scoff. If you’re from Minnesota, it’s not even winter until it gets below zero. Twenty above is practically spring like.

But 20 degrees with snow for a week in Austin is cataclysmic.

Homes are not built to retain heat. Pipes are not insulated for prolonged cold. Road crews do not invest in tons of salt they may never use. Drivers who have never experienced icy or snow-covered roads don’t know how to drive in it.

My Beloved and I holed up in our condo for that week. Fortunately, we had an abundance of groceries, and my quick-thinking husband had the presence of mind to fill the bathtub when we still had running water.

We endured intermittent power outages for four days and no running water for six. Wearing two spring jackets and socks for mittens, I ventured out to check the mail once only to discover that snow and gloom of night was preventing these couriers from their appointed rounds, too.

I flinched every time the power went out, worrying about whether the coffee maker had finished its work, and my greasy, unwashed hair was horrifying. The dirty dishes in the sink haunted me a little, but I reminded myself I was a tough Minnesota native. Who needs first-world luxuries?! I was proud of how I was surviving a Texas winter storm disaster!

But as I was vacuuming the morning we hoped to get water—doing whatever cleaning I could in anticipation of getting water to do more cleaning—I started weeping when I took a break to look at memes on Facebook and listen to Fun’s “Some Nights.”

Why would a 2012 pop song make me cry?

Well, “Some Nights” is about existential angst, so there’s that, but it was a matter of timing, not import. When I heard the song, I felt like I was on a ledge with nothing to hold on to. I was stressed out—about simple things, I fully admit, like laundry and no TV—and I had been denying my stress for days. “I’m tough, I’m OK, it could be worse.”

The tears were cathartic.

A few hours later, my Beloved and I had a big, stupid fight about who would shower first. Not that we each wanted to go first, but we fought to let the other one go first. How dumb. For me, the yelling was, again, further evidence that we hadn’t been processing what we were feeling.

Disaster requires coping. Denial is a powerful coping mechanism, and it’s the go-to tool in my self-protection toolbox.

Unfortunately for the hummingbirds and cedar trees and cacti, denying the truth of the cold weather didn’t save them.

Though the mountains may crumble (and my greasy hair may hang limp), a greater presence remained through it all offering gifts of peace and love.

And I was reminded, sometimes I am the mountain.

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