Like the cousins who come in May, and stay and stay, the goldfinches have arrived

Working both sides of the feeder: A Purple Finch peeks around the corner as an American Goldfinch munches a seed.

MY FAVORITE SUMMER VISITOR showed up on Center Island last week. The American Goldfinch, our Washington state bird, is now mobbing my feeder.

Interesting goldfinch trivia from my neighbor, the Mad Birder: Goldfinches are one of the few land birds that migrate by daylight. Most fly cross-country at night, free of pesky daytime thermals — those sometimes wicked up-and-down bursts that prompt airline pilots to tell you it’s not a good time to toddle to the toilet. In darkness, birds also find it easier to elude predatory hawks and eagles.

To an eagle, the Mad Birder’s theory goes, the half-ounce bit of feathery lemon zest that is a goldfinch is dietarily akin to celery: You burn more calories in the chewing than you actually gain. “Oh, there goes one of those flashy little yellow guys. Not worth my time!”

But the goldfinches add so much color to the view out my front window, I’m happy to fatten them up on as many sunflower seeds as they can chomp. Welcome back, Washington’s trademark ball of fluff.

Ooooh, scary goldfinch face! It seems they don’t always want company at mealtime.
“Hey, there’s plenty for everybody, bud! Are we good now? Huh? Huh?”

Squish! Squish! Squish! The wildflowers are loving it.

Sea blush adds a cotton-candy color to the rocky knoll behind Nuthatch Cabin. The native wildflower is more prolific than ever this spring on my island.

IT’S A SOGGY SUNDAY on Center Island, continuing a moist and cool spring throughout Western Washington. Halfway through May, Seattle has already recorded 2 1/2 times its historically average rainfall for the month.

Other than the extreme crankiness among Washingtonians who will wave their GORE-TEX-swaddled arms and shout that we get enough friggin’ rain in November, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that invasive grasses and weeds are loving it. My little half-acre of paradise is looking like the 12-year-old kid who hates haircuts after spending a summer with his grandfather who doesn’t see too good. We’re talking shaggy.

Blue camas mingles with other wildflowers by the front step of my writing hut. The starry flower’s bulbs were once a staple in the diet of Northwest tribes, who steamed them like potatoes. Don’t confuse the bulbs with those of the aptly named (and toxic) death camas, which has a spiky cluster of white inflorescence. The two types of camas often grow in close proximity.

The good news is that the wildflowers are going nuts, too. If you get a chance to take a hike soon at Iceberg Point on Lopez, Turtleback Mountain on Orcas, Young Hill on San Juan Island, or just about anyplace in the islands with an open meadow and occasional sunshine, prepare to be wowed. Blue camas flowers, golden buttercups, pink sea blush, chocolate lilies and more have been outdoing themselves this month. I need look only as far as the rocky knoll behind my cabin.

Rain, rain, go away. Soon. But thanks for watering the flowers.

This post is also available on audio. Listen to my Cantwell’s Reef podcast.

Island hopping across the continent for a late-winter refresher

The new World Trade Center, originally known as Freedom Tower, dominates Manhattan’s skyline as you walk westward on the pedestrian pathway across the venerable Brooklyn Bridge.

I CALLED IT MY “NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT” TOUR. And Friday when I told my Center Island friend, Monique the farmer, that I’d just returned from New York City, she grinned and agreed. “Wow, you can’t get much more different from little Center Island!”

This journey, my first real travel experience since the COVID plague froze us in our tracks two years ago, came about quickly and without much planning. My old friend Daniel Farber told me a few weeks ago that a cousin had offered him use of her vacant Brooklyn Heights apartment, and that he and wife Jean planned to make the pilgrimage from their Olympia home to spend the entire month of March there. It had a guest room. Would I like to visit? After a long and quiet winter on Center Island, I didn’t take long to say yes.

Free lodging in one of the world’s priciest cities. A free air ticket, thanks to my Alaska mileage account. Good times with good friends. The pandemic seeming to ease. The math was easy.

When I talk about island hopping, I understand that Manhattan is really the well-known island of New York. But Brooklyn is on an island, too (the west end of Long Island). I’d never set foot in Brooklyn before. So I told Daniel I’d come for three nights and all I really wanted to do was explore Brooklyn on foot and eat lots of good deli food.

We did that, and more.

Wherever I’ve traveled, I’ve always treasured first-morning impressions. I love to get up early and walk to a viewpoint or a beach, a bustling market or a famous park, and fill my mind with pictures the way colored-chalk scrawlings enliven a sidewalk.

The night after my evening arrival, Daniel had slept poorly, so I let him snooze as I finished my coffee and slipped out the door onto Hicks Street, a row of dignified old brick apartment blocks. Directly across the street from ours, tucked between two residences, squatted an ancient firehouse that looked like Ghostbusters headquarters. In three quick blocks of walking, with a left on Montague Street, I was on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, an 1,800-foot-long walkway cantilevered over the hillside with a spectacular view of Lower Manhattan and the East River. A swivel of my head took in everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge. The air was crisp, the sky was blue, colorful ferries skittered everywhere, and the 1,776-foot World Trade Center spire, originally known as Freedom Tower, dominated the stupendous island scenery. It’s America’s loftiest skyscraper.

Brooklyn Bridge guy wires frame Lower Manhattan.

Once everyone was up and about, we walked miles that sunny day, through interesting residential streets crowded with authentic brownstones the color of a russet potato fresh from the earth. Pausing to admire the gorgeous Brooklyn Public Library, we ended up at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and lunch in Crown Heights.

Tropical blooms brighten the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s conservatory.

More than one night, we blissfully dined on Mediterranean-style food from two Atlantic Avenue institutions, Sahadi’s deli grocery, run by a family from Lebanon, and a Syrian bakery called Damascus. The smokiest, richest baba ghanough (their spelling) this side of Beirut. Spicy and delicious Za’atar chicken. Dips and spreads, pies and pastries.

The second day of my visit was cold and cloudy. When not pouring rain it was snowing. We hopped the subway to Manhattan and wisely spent the day indoors, first touring the Whitney Museum of American Art in the West Village. Highlights: a special exhibit of African-American artist Jennifer Packer’s studies of people with haunting faces and clothed in colors so vibrant that you had to wonder if the paint was made from human blood and maybe the zest of mandarin oranges. Another favorite for Daniel and me was a historical montage and film of a whimsical, miniature kinetic circus created by Alexander Calder. It showed me a whole new, quirky side of this artist known for monumental, plaza-filling sculpture.

We spent the afternoon, delightfully, as part of the studio audience at a Rockefeller Center taping of NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” The former “Saturday Night Live” comedian spent off-camera time chatting amiably with the crowd. (And yes, they really do have strobe-like signs that flash “APPLAUSE” when they want you to clap.) Sorry, I don’t have any photos; the not-so-amiable handlers in fancy suits made it clear that if you took a photo in the studio you would (A) be forced to erase it, and (B) get thrown out.

Perhaps the thrill of the trip was my final morning, well in advance of my 5 p.m. flight home, when Daniel and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Blue sky had returned. We arrived at the bridge as the sun flooded the skyline of Manhattan, ahead of us. The 1.1-mile span is an engineering wonder, built over a period of 13 years between 1870 and 1883. Its arched 272-foot Gothic Revival towers make it a colossal work of art.

Unlike most bridges, the pedestrian pathway is suspended in the bridge’s center, above the traffic lanes, separating you from the noise and rush of cars. Striding along, it felt like a peaceful walk in the sky as we gazed at the continent’s tallest building framed by a galvanized spider web of suspension cables. The bridge carries 10,000 pedestrians a day, but we never felt crowded.

Daniel at the less shiny end of the financial district’s bull.

Once on Manhattan, we wandered through the Wall Street district, past the fabled bronze bull, and back to the river’s edge to catch a passenger ferry back to Brooklyn. (Statuary trivia: Bronze statues worldwide have parts that passersby rub for good luck, such as Scottish philosopher David Hume’s big toe in Edinburgh, or John Harvard’s left foot at Harvard University, and consequently those parts are always shiniest. The shiniest part of the Wall Street bull: its beefy testicles. God bless ballsy America.)

Back to Seattle on Thursday. Back to Center Island Friday. Saturday morning I took a home COVID test. It was negative. I love my little island, but the effect on my morale of a getaway to someplace completely different: Definitely positive.

Center Island’s February surprise

A snowy morning frames a view of Lopez Sound and Lopez Island as seen from the southwest corner of Center Island.

I’VE OFTEN REMINDED OTHER ISLAND FOLK that February can throw just about anything our way, and after a springlike month that had us all scoffing at Punxsutawney Phil’s Groundhog Day prediction of more winter ahead, Center Islanders woke up this morning.

To snow on the ground.

It was one of those surprise snowfalls that began well after dark last night. And unlike rain, heralded by its rooftop patter, snow parachutes to the ground unannounced. So one had to be really paying attention to avoid a gee-whillikers moment when first looking out this morning.

OK, it was just an inch. Nothing to flap about, but a late-February surprise nonetheless. I worried about the narcissus that is starting to bloom in the side yard.

The nice thing was that by dawn the sky had cleared to that watery, light blue you get only in winter, as if someone put a capful too much bleach in with the baby boy’s blanket. As the sun came up while I sipped my first coffee, from the Nuthatch’s front window I saw an accenting blush of pink like watercolor paint brushed boldly across the treeline of Lopez Island. Below my front deck, the salal thicket sparkled.

Galley Cat is no fan of snow, though she didn’t let the cold, white stuff stop her from a paw-mincing climb up the rocky knoll with me to inspect the Back 40. Frosty toes sent her scooting back inside as soon as the cabin door was open, however.

My writing hut, Wee Nooke, is a cozy retreat among the snow.

It was a good week here, with a four-day visit by daughter Lillian, who brought her cat, Tiberius, along for the first time. Galley growled at the feline interloper, and Tibbers spent a lot of time hiding under a bed in the loft. But by visit’s end there was a tolerant sheathing of claws. If only the Russians could follow their example.

Tomorrow, Galley and I head across the water to visit Friday Harbor friends for another session of planning our upcoming Alaska voyage, and to meet another crew member. Take heart. More sunshine is in the forecast, and March is coming soon.

Mr. Fix-It rides again on Center Island

The doughnut-shaped part that needed replacing sits atop my tool box in the cargo area of my golf cart, Mr. Toad. As always with a DIY repair, kitty supervision was key.

FEW THINGS ARE MORE SATISFYING than repairing something yourself, especially when you live on a remote island with no Mr. Fix-It shops just down the road.

It’s especially satisfying when you’re fixing something about which you know very little, such as my golf cart, Mr. Toad. And the fix works.

I’ve never been a golfer. Until a couple years ago, when Barbara needed more help getting around, I never had reason to own a golf cart, though the electric-powered flivvers are the preferred method of personal locomotion on Center Island, where covenants prohibit personal vehicles powered by internal combustion.

I still prefer to walk (the only way you get to see the Golden-Crowned Kinglets mobbing trees along the airfield), or ride my bike, which I do for exercise when the weather is nice. But my golf cart, which dates to the Clinton Administration and is named for the speed-happy amphibian of “Wind in the Willows,” comes in handy when it’s time to lug trash to the dock or transport groceries back to the cabin.

After buying Mr. Toad in summer 2020, my first big fix came last fall, replacing the bank of six 6-volt deep-cycle batteries, which cost almost as much as I paid for the whole darn buggy. But the new batteries gave me the needed oomph to get up hills again.

Then all was fine until recently, when a new problem became apparent. Instead of accelerating slowly and smoothly, Mr. Toad began hopping in short bursts. No matter how carefully I trod the accelerator, either it wanted to sit still or go full-tilt, which seemed perfectly fitting for its fictional namesake who was imprisoned for his reckless driving. But it didn’t make for a relaxing ride to the clubhouse.

I can occasionally be clever with tools (see “A tool chest full of memories on Father’s Day,” June 2019). After taking a community college class in marine-diesel repair years ago, I never had to pay for someone else to repair my sailboat engine. But I knew bupkis about what made golf carts go, other than the batteries.

Here’s where the internet earned its keep, which is a big admission coming from me, Mr. Luddite 2022. I asked Google, “Why is my golf cart going herky jerky?” Within minutes I was watching a YouTube video in which a well-fed, jovial little man in Texas told me all about my E-Z-GO golf cart’s inductive throttle sensor and showed me how to change it.

From online research, I found other possible fixes, including a part that cost $400. But the inductive throttle sensor could be had for $23.99 on Amazon. I always like to start with the cheapest likely fix and go from there. I hit the order button. The part would arrive in six days.

The Chinese-made part was sold by a company that inexplicably calls itself 10LOL. That’s the numeral “10,” followed by the letters “LOL.” I wonder where some of these Chinese companies get their names, and who is advising them. Don’t they know that in the U.S.A., “LOL” stands for “laughing out loud”? Maybe the Omaha-based marketing consultant who helped them pick that name is laughing all the way to the bank.

The new part looked just like the old one: a doughnut-shaped piece of hardened black plastic, about two inches high, topping a small platform with a couple of electrical hookups. It didn’t look like anything that should make a difference to how my golf cart accelerated, but it did the trick for that well-tummied Texan. I said a Hail Gary (most fix-it guys on YouTube are named Gary) and proceeded.

Happily, the part came with detailed, illustrated instructions that showed every step needed to make the replacement in my model of golf cart. Even though it involved time-consuming removal of a lot of bolts to access the part, which hid in a little box beneath the floor mat, I was done in an hour.

I took Mr. Toad for a test drive. The acceleration is once again as smooth as a frog pond on a sultry August afternoon.

I feel like such a master of the wilderness.

Island energy provides a jump charge on days of woe

Boaters wave as they churn past my lunch spot on the cliffs at Lopez Island’s Shark Reef Sanctuary on Saturday.

A BIG PART OF MY ISLAND ADVENTURE and this ride you’ve all been on with me is how I’m adjusting to being here without my beloved wife of 41 years, whose corporeal life ended in the front room of Nuthatch cabin in the wee hours of last April Fool’s Day.

I’ve tried not to dwell on my grief too frequently in these lines, but it’s like the 800-pound mortician in the room.

I’m not a fan of solitary living, but I’ve come to realize that the quiet months I’ve had here, with few physical or emotional demands other than playing with my silly cat, have helped me start to come to terms with my wife’s death. It’s not a matter of healing from the devastation of Barbara’s loss. I’ll always feel that. But along with generous support from friends and loved ones, this quiet and lovely little island has allowed me to renew my energy to cope.

This past Thursday, February 10, was Barbara’s birthday. It was a rough week for daughter Lillian and me. Others who’ve lost life partners had warned me early on of the brutal challenge of “firsts” — first Thanksgiving without her, first Christmas without her, and so on. So, as we did with those holidays, Lil and I planned a special observance that would temper the sadness. Last Sunday, a few days in advance of her actual birthdate, we spent a day together that Barbara would have loved, experiencing some of the best of Seattle.

My daughter and I met at the new Northgate station and took light rail downtown. We grabbed coffees and enjoyed a long amble along the waterfront to the Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture park. After retracing our steps and exploring shops along the way, we lunched at Ivar’s Fish Bar. Barbara, whom I believe now has influence on these things, gave us a pristine, springlike day, so we sat at an outdoor table in the sun, watched ferries come and go, and fed french fries to the gulls. (It’s a longtime Seattle tradition, sanctioned by Ivar Haglund himself. No gulls were grievously harmed in the writing of this blog.)

After lunch, we ventured up the hill to the main galleries of Seattle Art Museum and toured a special exhibition of work by Imogen Cunningham, one of Barbara’s favorite photographers. Afterward, we snacked on luscious cannoli at DeLaurenti’s in the Pike Place Market.

It was a good day in honor of Barbara. However, come Thursday, as I was back on Center Island, her actual birthday weighed on me. Along with the approaching one-year anniversary of losing her good company, these particular firsts are forcing me to put aside denial. With melancholy reluctance, I’m fully recognizing this loss is forever.

Friday, I finally got my boat, WeLike, back in the water after it had sat on its trailer since November, waiting out thrashing winter winds. Yesterday, with more sunshine to brighten my outlook, I motored over to Lopez Island. As a reward for starting on the first crank, Ranger Rick, my loyal Ford pickup, got a wipedown to remove accumulated bird droppings, and we toured the island. I sipped a strong brew and read my newest Dana Stabenow book on the deck at Isabel’s Espresso. Got a few groceries from the market. Then steered toward the trailhead at Shark Reef Sanctuary, the best place I know for restoring peace to the soul.

A sailboat ghosts past the Cattle Point Lighthouse on the southern tip of San Juan Island, as seen from Shark Reef Sanctuary.

I had the mossy cliffs edging San Juan Channel all to myself, looking down at the rocky, kelp-pantalooned islets just offshore where sea lions and shorebirds abound. I munched a sack lunch and scanned the panorama, from sun-dappled swirling currents below Cattle Point Lighthouse, across the way on San Juan Island, to the snow-blanketed Olympic Range to the south, beyond the sprawling Strait of Juan de Fuca. I listened to an alto chorus of Black Oystercatchers gossip and squabble on the rocks. I waved to a passing powerboat, churning slowly against the tidal change. I let the peace seep in.

Black Oystercatchers love the kelp-carpeted rocks at Shark Reef.

Most days I smile, some days I weep. But I’m not despairing. Barbara wouldn’t want that. As long as I need to, I’ll take one day at a time. And this salty, soothing, serene place helps me recharge.

Melting snow for the toilet, saving Annas, and other winter fun

A well-chilled hummingbird returns to my feeder shortly after fresh, warm sugar-water replaced the solid block of ice last week.

IT’S 50 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT OUTSIDE, MY TOILET FLUSHES WITHOUT HAND-PRIMING and my hummingbird feeder isn’t freezing solid every few hours.

These are luxuries one comes to appreciate.

Last we visited, my neighbors’ pipes were iced up but all was well at the Nuthatch. However, on the coldest days I watched through my kitchen window as our overwintering Anna’s Hummingbirds were frustrated in efforts to find nourishment from the feeder that had turned to solid ice. My soft heart breaking, twice a day I brought in the feeder and replaced the ice with fresh, warm sugar-water.

But on the day before New Year’s Eve, the hummingbirds weren’t the only ones frozen out. After a wind-chilled week when outdoor temperatures topped out between 15 and 25 degrees, Center Island’s community water system succumbed to the shivers. Buried pipes and various other parts of our reverse-osmosis supply system froze up. In the space of a couple hours the output from my kitchen and bathroom faucets turned from a trickle to nothing.

Our water guru, Sean, confirmed via an email blast that the outage was island-wide. He offered an apologetic explanation that boiled down to this: The solution was up to the weather gods, not the water guru. We just needed warmth. Patience would be key.

Taking the “toilet tank is half full” view, there was good news: I had long ago stored two 5-gallon plastic jugs, filled with emergency water, on my back porch. I brought them inside to thaw. And somehow water was still flowing at our community clubhouse, about a half-mile from me. That blessing was mixed: As a caution against exhausting the water supply the caretaker had closed the shower and laundry room.

We also had a few inches of snow on the ground, which wasn’t melting. A good source of more emergency water, even if it needed to be boiled, I told myself. The blood of my homesteading pioneer ancestors surged through my veins.

But my South Dakota grandparents’ weary genetic material failed to remind me that when you fill a giant pasta pot with snow from the deck and melt it atop the woodstove, you end up with only about 2 inches of water in the bottom of the pot. Speckled with dirt and floating fir needles, it was good only for toilet flushing.

With a toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush, that didn’t accomplish anything fast. After a few melted potfuls I, uh, flushed away that strategy.

The long and short of it was that after four days of no showering, infrequent flushing and more than one trek across the island to refill my water jugs amid frigid winds gusting to 50 mph, I texted the water taxi, packed up Galley Cat and bugged out last Monday like a MASH unit fleeing advancing troops.

Here’s where good friends are a wonderful thing.

Lynn, a former Seattle Times colleague, and her husband, David, had earlier invited me to their Lopez Island vacation home for a brunch. With a little hint-dropping on my part and typical generosity from Lynn and David, that turned into an overnight visit, including two delightful hikes (the sun came out!) on beautiful Iceberg Point, with panoramic views of the wintry Olympics and thrashing waves off the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The gamboling accompaniment of their highly energetic Springer spaniel pup added joy.

The next day I drove Ranger Rick, my reliable teenaged pickup, to the far end of Lopez, parked in the 72-hour lot and toddled aboard the state ferry to Friday Harbor (fare-free for interisland walk-ons). I carried Galley in a soft-sided carrier slung over my shoulder, with all my cat supplies, clothes and other gear packed in a Rubbermaid tote strapped to a hand truck for easy rolling on and off the ferry. The kitty cat and I planned a couple nights with Barbara Marrett and Bill Watson, partners in my upcoming voyage up the Inside Passage to Alaska. We would further plan our 10-week itinerary, which begins Memorial Day weekend.

We buckled down and did a lot of studying of charts and guidebooks, filling out a detailed spreadsheet of where we hoped to visit. We also found time for hikes, a fun board game, good food and an evening binge-watch about Vikings invading medieval Britain.

Looking down from a wintry hike up Young Hill, in San Juan Island National Historical Park, as snow began to fall Wednesday on San Juan Island.

I had planned to return home Thursday. The National Weather Service predicted up to an inch of snow Wednesday night for Friday Harbor but with rapid warming and rain the next day. Didn’t sound like a problem.

We awakened Thursday to 5 inches of wet snow. Beautiful but not travel-friendly. My hosts kindly put me up another night.

Galley and I have been back at the Nuthatch since Friday. Glad to have hot showers and a flushing toilet. Still drinking bottled water until Sean gives the all-clear on the latest water-sample test, but that’s a mere hiccup among this feast of creature comforts.

Maybe it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of our good fortunes once in a while, whether we’re hummingbird or human. Stay warm, friends.

When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even

Madrona in the snow: Looking from Center Island toward Decatur Island during my morning walk.

OH, WE’RE HAVIN’ A HEAT WAVE, a tropical heat wave… Well, it got up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit today on Center Island. After a couple of days this week when the red stuff in the outdoor thermometer didn’t budge above 15, that’s saying something. Not much, but something.

Christmas arrived in the San Juans along with a blast of Siberian cold, snow and wind that hasn’t quite ended.

With all that in the forecast last week, daughter Lillian and I canceled our long-planned Christmas rendezvous with friends at the Washington coast. Instead, Lil and her friend Bianca, a former college roommate with whom she remains close, joined me at the Nuthatch for a quiet and cozy celebration with plenty of good food, mulled wine, games, puzzles and favorite old movies. We went caroling at the island farm (“Good King Wenceslas” was our forte) and had a snowball fight on the airfield.

Lillian, left, and friend Bianca on a snowy Feast of Stephen, also known as December 26.

We didn’t wake up to a white Christmas, but by evening the flakes were falling fast, allowing us to enjoy the magic of dimming lights inside the cabin and turning on outside lights above the front wall of windows to experience a mesmerizing eyeful of what I call “Snow Theater.”

Thoughtful friends and family remembered me with many cards and gifts. It was a good Christmas, but as many surmised, it wasn’t easy without my sweet wife and Lillian’s dear mum. Christmas was Barbara’s favorite time of year. We did our best to honor the standard she set and replicate the joy she brought to it. Of course it wasn’t the same, but it was the best way to show our love.

Tracks in the snow told who’d been there before me, whether two-legged or four.

Monday I braved snowy highways to return Lillian and Bianca to Seattle. I returned via water taxi to my island on Tuesday to learn that many neighbors had frozen pipes. (Mine are OK.)

This morning dawned quiet and sunny. Winds were light, the air remained frigid and the snow wasn’t melting. A perfect morning to bundle up for an invigorating tramp around the island with my camera. It was fun to try to read prints in the snow. Was that a deer crossing the road? A fox treading the path behind my knoll?

The continuing cold has helped quash a planned visit by friends for the New Year’s holiday. So Galley Cat and I will be partying alone as we welcome 2022. For me, the year to come holds the adventure of a 10-week voyage with some other chums on a 37-foot powerboat up the Inside Passage to Alaska, and the hope that we might all be able to resume safe travels to faraway places, one of my joys in life. For Galley, there’s probably hope for more runs up the knoll. Maybe better-quality kitty tuna. Her needs are simple. I think we can work on that.

Whatever your wishes, here’s hoping.

I was only ever a Cub Scout, but ‘Be Prepared’ is my new motto

Mr. Toad, named for the road-terror hero of “Wind in the Willows,” ferried rounds of fir from a wind-downed tree on Tuesday.

SOMEBODY COINED THE TERM ‘CAR-WASH RAIN’ and the description was apt. Drumbeats on the roof. Sheets of water down the windows. It was like being in a dimly lit tunnel from which you could barely see out. Like a drive-through car wash.

But this wash and waxing wasn’t over in three minutes. The “atmospheric river,” or Pineapple Express, or whatever label the KOMO Weather Woman affixed on the latest low-pressure tantrum to blast Washingtonians with its Super Soaker, started the drenching Sunday afternoon and didn’t let up for the better part of 24 hours by my clock.

I’m a little fuzzy on the timing because for the latter part of that storm most of the Nuthatch’s clocks weren’t working.

Oh, I forgot to mention the Monday winds, gusting to 60 mph, that blew down trees and doused electricity to our island and several others in the San Juans.

Shortly after my power went out and clocks went dark at 1:23 p.m., Orcas Power and Light Cooperative, which electrifies all the San Juans, emailed me to let me know my power had gone out at 1:23 p.m. I thought it very efficient of them. Maybe I hadn’t noticed all the lights go off, the Internet go down, the heater fan stop and fridge go silent. Of course, I didn’t get the email until after my Internet came back on hours later.

Actually, I was the first Center Islander to report the power failure to OPALCO’s outage line. The phone is the first thing I reach for when things go dark. They can’t fix it if they don’t know about it, right? While our island’s utility wires are underground, our power comes via an underwater cable that originates in Anacortes and first crosses Decatur Island, where lines are on poles and subject to falling trees.

After phoning, my second move was to refill my indoor firewood rack and kindle a blaze in the woodstove. With my electric heat pump no longer magically pulling warmth from the howling winds outside, the cabin would quickly chill.

My next thought: Last time the power failed, in a storm last January, it stayed off for 18 hours. Long enough for the fridge to warm and the freezer full of food to start thawing.

So I stepped out to the shed and hauled out the gas-powered portable generator that got its first tryout in January. While I had already given it a pre-winter test run a couple weeks ago, I hadn’t refilled the gas tank. The good news: I knew I had a spare 5-gallon jug of gasoline. The other news: Said gas jug was aboard my boat, on the other side of the island.

Now, one thing I’ve learned in my long years on this planet and in my few years on this island is that it’s not a great idea to go out in a raging windstorm. The quick lesson on that comes from the loud thunks every few minutes on my metal roof as branches fall. Usually they are small branches. Sometimes they are not small. And they come down fast.

But I had Mr. Toad, the Cantwell golf cart, sporting a brand-new, $1,000 set of six 6-volt batteries installed just days earlier. (Timing can be everything.) Mr. Toad features a hardtop roof, strong enough to protect the noggin from most plummeting limbs. Happily, the pouring rain had ceased and sunshine was lighting up the wildly waving trees. What Mr. Toad lacks is doors. In rain, the going can be wet.

In the calm after the storm, the Nuthatch’s firewood rack gets refilled with wind-downed fir.

The wind-buffeted sojourn was without incident. Once I’d topped off the generator’s tank, the daylight was fading. I wouldn’t fire up the noisy, smelly generator just yet; the fridge would be fine for a while yet. But the lights had been out for hours and OPALCO’s recorded info line offered no estimated time of repair. My next thought was: What did I not want to be looking for in the dark? I dug out my battery-powered mountaineering headlamp, lost in the depths of my knapsack when last I’d wanted it. Then I distributed emergency candles strategically around the cabin, placed a lighter nearby, and retrieved my propane camping stove from the shelf high above the washing machine. (Note to self: The bamboo clothes hamper is not designed to support a 170 pound human, if that cracking sound was any indication.)

Things were getting decidedly dim in the cabin by 4:30. I pulled some bratwurst from the freezer to thaw, since I couldn’t rely on the microwave for defrosting. Then, having done all I could to prepare for the night, I decided to take my pre-dinner nap earlier than usual. (It’s called being retired. One of the better perks.) I had a good book to read, but I wanted to keep that for the potentially long evening, free of Netflix, music, the New York Times app and other electricity-dependent entertainment.

It was pitch dark outside when I awoke. Through its smoke-smudged glass, the woodstove’s low fire cast just a flicker of light on the cabin walls. I added fresh wood. Back in the kitchen, with candles lit and the ceiling flooded with light from a lithium-powered emergency automobile beacon (another treasure discovered while spelunking in my knapsack), I was just gathering items for dinner prep and about to ignite the campstove when the fridge suddenly hummed. And lights flashed on.

OPALCO, ever efficient, emailed me that my power was restored at 5:35:19 p.m. Well done, repair crews. Just in time for dinner. I was back in the 21st century. In 10 minutes, candles and stove were stowed and the microwave was doing its thing.

Today, the payoff for all that angst: A big Douglas fir had blown down across my road a few lots away from mine. The island’s caretaker cut it into big segments and cleared the way. Knowing I was on the lookout for firewood, he alerted me. (My woodshed is full, but my outdoor rack was empty.) By 10 this calm and sunny morning, I was there with my chainsaw. By early afternoon my drying rack was full of 10- to 16-inch rounds. It will keep me busy all winter splitting wood, my favorite therapy. By March, the fir might be burnable. Or at least I’ll have a jump on next fall.

Like a Boy Scout, I’m getting better at being prepared. It’s what you do when you live on a remote little island nobody’s heard of, amid nature red in tooth and claw. Or when it blows like stink.

50 words for rain on the roof?

Fallen leaves marinate in the rainwater pooling on the Nuthatch’s deck rail this morning.

CAN YOU HAVE AN URBAN MYTH about the Arctic bush? When does it become a Rural Myth?

The myth I’m thinking of is the one about Eskimos or Inuits having 50 words for “snow.” Or is it 500? Is it, in fact, just a myth?

I swerved back and forth over this fogline of thought early this morning as I lay in bed after a long night of rain.

The Nuthatch has a metal roof. Practical and durable for a wet climate. Safer than wood shakes in the summer fire season. It happens that my bed in the loft is situated such that my head is right up against the inside of that roof, with only some knotty pine, a bit of insulation and a veneer of plywood and tar paper intervening. So when it rains, I hear it.

Here’s the jack o’lantern I carved on Wednesday, before the rains. Good news in the forecast: Sunday is supposed to be dry and warm. Happy Halloween!

Usually, it’s soothing. Last night, it was pretty damn loud.

As my Pacific Northwest neighbors know, we’re having a soggy week, and it’s not over yet. For the Seattle suburbs, the National Weather Service forecasts up to 2 inches of rain tonight. There’s a flood watch in effect. Even my rain-shadowy San Juans could get another inch in the next 18 hours, they say. Normally, this corner of the continent is the drizzle capital of North America.

Last night on Center Island I heard the rain start in the wee hours and continue until I arose around 7:15. For hours on end water seemed to spray from a great firehose in the sky.

As I lay in that limbo zone between groggy sleep and hoping that Galley Cat would finally get up first and make the coffee, I came up with this list of terms for rain on my roof, based on the sound effect.

POUNDING: This is a new one I invented last night. Been to the symphony? Know what tympani are? It wasn’t a good night’s rest. Thankfully rare, though with climate change, who knows.

DRUMMING: This term is more common, denoting steady precip. Familiar in poetry and song. Think “Little Drummer Boy” and “rum-pum-pum-pum.” We get it now and then.

PATTERING: Here’s where I’m lulled to pleasant sleep, with the satisfying feeling of being safe and warm inside my cozy cabin. The trees and moss outside are finally getting the moisture they need. Common here in spring and autumn when the forecast calls for those ubiquitous “showers.”

DRIPPING: See “Pattering,” just not so definitive. The preamble, perhaps. A nagging reminder to clean the gutters, which filled with fallen leaves and fir needles in Tuesday’s big wind storm.

OK, four isn’t fifty. It’s a work in progress. But the rainy season has only just begun.