St. George’s Island is shaped like a crab claw dangling into the mouth of the Potomac River. The spine of the chunky part of the claw is a beach facing southwest. It is separated from the smaller pincer by a gut descriptively named Island Creek. Along the other side of the island the pincher crumbles into marsh and the larger St. George’s Creek.
It’s a lovely island made particularly picturesque as snow fell the weekend before Christmas. Surely the falling was equally picturesque in Piney Point – the other side of the bridge – and on up the 50 miles to D.C. However, unlike those towns to the north, St. George’s Island did not remain picturesque on the ground. Upon impact the snow turned to brackish puddles which grew into inland seas – some of which never fully recede anymore.
That’s something new.
Flooding isn’t new to St. George’s Island. When the wind blows hard East, across the mouth of the Chesapeake, the tide rises but does not completely fall. Ultimately this floods the creeks and marshes; on St. George’s Island typically a couple times in autumn and occasionally in spring.
For my first two decades here, the phenomenon merely flooded a small stretch of road, little more than a spillway of asphalt, between St. George’s and Island creeks. For the first few years traversing the flooded spillway required driving slowly so the water didn’t splash into the car’s engine. Within the past 15 years a trapped tide can get so high only the tips of tall marsh grass indicate the asphalt's edges.
Still, this was not considered a big deal by true Islanders.
In the late 1980s, St. George Islanders’ living memories recalled storms that tore away farm fields, their schoolhouse and ball fields, hotels and homes. These were rare, monumental storms, some on par with the disastrous Hurricane Isabella (2003).
Prior to Isabella only three storms had carried water across this yard. But since then water has flowed across the yard and beneath my house a couple times a year.
It used to be only backed-up tides could flood the island. Fresh water, no matter how long it rained, drained into the surrounding tidal waters. As long as the tide fell, water drained off the island. Even with land a mere two feet above sea-level – like this yard is (was?) – it takes a lot of water to raise sea-levels two full feet. Up until then, up until two full feet of tide had backed up, rain drained.
But the rain pools now. I don’t see that two-foot elevation anymore. The snow melted upon contact with the pools already so slow to freeze they must be brackish.I am thinking of replacing the azaleas with aquatic vegetation.
I wasn’t always so cavalier. I used to harangue about the loss of wetlands and development incentives on fragile landscapes. I was so active an activist. I would forget I lived in a glass house. I could even forget Walt Kelly’s rejoinder:
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”So pushing it out of my mind with new gardening strategies is getting tougher with each tidal slap of the pilings beneath me. My home has become a glass lighthouse.
No matter how we couch it, that is the truth.
With such an encompassing vantage, haranguing is getting harder, too. As is obvious from this watery perch, there’s no one left to harangue.
So I grow cavalier. It’s nearly imperative to become cavalier, just to go down with any dignity whatsoever.