The Cone of Uncertainty

Southern is more than geography, it’s a lifestyle, it’s in the beat of our hearts, the soft lilt in our words; it’s in the traditions of cotillion and bunco, of cowboy boots and front porch swings, of moonshine and moonpies.

boots and tree

Southern is a birth right and a blessing.

One of the little things that we who live both in the South and on the Coast get to experience yearly is this little event you might be familiar with… it’s known as Hurricane Season.

Down here we live on the Coast and from June to November (because Hurricanes use calendars, of course) we live in this thing called The Cone of Uncertainty.

Cone of Uncertainty; I read those words as if they were said by James Earl Jones and giggle even while a chill races down my spine and my stomach tightens. We who live  on the coast can do that.  It’s called survival instinct.

We choose to live on the Gulf Coast where the breezes taste of salt and sand and the humidity is a gift to skin and a curse to hair, where even in the winter you can comfortably walk in the waves collecting shells.

We choose to live in the Cone of Uncertainty because the beauty of the Southern people is unmatched anywhere else.  You’ll never meet a stranger and you’ll likely never have a door closed in your face, we raise gentlemen and strong southern ladies down here.  Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am sprinkle the speech of even the youngest southern children.  Three year olds open and hold doors for others because they want to grow up to be just like their daddies.

It’s like picking dewberries in the summer, watching dragonflies flitting among the honeysuckle on Granny’s fence and family portraits in bluebonnets;

Posing among the bluebonnetsBeing Southern is who we are, it’s in our bones.

I know why we return, why we stay and why we remain hopeful.

I know what it is to have numbered plywood in your garage.  I know what it is to have bottles of water, cases of ramen, gallons upon gallons of gasoline and ridiculous amounts of batteries in your home.  I know what it is to evacuate and evacuate and evacuate and just not have it in you to evacuate again.  I know what it is to watch the news with fear in your gut while trying to keep a smile on your face and a backbone of steel.

I have sighed that sigh of relief that is tinged with guilt when that hurricane shifts slightly to the South or North.  To have tears of relief course down my cheeks while simultaneous tears of grief flow for those now in the path of destruction.

I know it and yet, I stay.  I see the looks and I hear the; “Why do you stay? Isn’t it scary? Don’t you hope you can leave soon?” when people find out where we live.  “Yes, it can be scary,” I answer “but, we have insurance and Big Plastic Bins and Waterproof (hopefully) safes and a plan, we have a Hurricane Kit a store of canned food and batteries”

The truth is, I wouldn’t trade those months of living in the Cone of Uncertainty.. because I have this:

Sunrise on My Birthday

Because here, I can treat my kids to sunrises on the beach, s’mores cooked on a campfire on the beach, a night with more stars than even I knew existed, falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the knowledge that anytime we want to we can drop it all, drive less than 30 minutes and lose ourselves in the vastness of God’s great beauty, the Gulf of Mexico.

pop 2

I’m privileged to live where the taste of salt is in the air, Chivalry still exists, everyone knows everyone and a good story requires knowledge of at least 3 generations.

“Y’all come on over tonight and we’ll cook somethin’ up while the kids play” is as much a formal invitation as is  required among southerners and these invitations require little more than a holler across the street, a quick phone call or a chance meeting in the store.  Manners and Morals aren’t something from days gone by, they’re alive and kickin’.  I’m proud to live where Bless Your Heart is both a blessing and.. well, not… depending on to whom it refers; where being called Honey isn’t condescending it’s loving, where Sweet Tea is the norm rather than the exception and Dr Pepper Rules.

Morning Routine Day 2

The South always comes back, always shows that its heart is matched only by its ability to recover.  I remember watching Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, watching the devastation with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, at the same time saying a prayer of thanks that it wasn’t us.  With guilt and relief in my heart I joined others in dropping off food and clothes at donation sites and adding the people of New Orleans to my prayers.  Katrina put a fear in all of us who live in the Cone of Uncertainty because that was as bad as most of us have ever seen it. I remember in the days and weeks and months following Katrina hearing people say; “New Orleans will never recover, it’ll never come back from this”

I’ll admit that I had my own doubts, however, the city that I’d visited with my husband and walked the streets, listened to the music, felt the passion and life radiating from the very heart of the city and it’s every inhabitant, I couldn’t quite believe that it wouldn’t.  And New Orleanians have proven those people wrong.  Like the song says; “.. with a little help from (my) friends”  The South will always survive.

slippery when wet steps

So, here’s the thing, I’m going to stay on my coast, in the Cone of Uncertainty and while there are months that I’ll stalk the weather people, even when they butcher the small town Southern names:

It’s pronounced Ree-fury-yo, honey, not Ree-FYOO-Gee-yo (Refugio)

because for all the devastation and the fear and the uncertainty…

The Power, The Beauty, The Heart, The Hope, The Laughter, The Love, The Strength of The South make the Cone of Uncertainty, pretty damn unimpressive, after all.



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  1. I love this so very much. I spent a few days in Biloxi last week and I did not want to come back here. I can’t say home because it’s not. I’m looking at moving back to Mississippi or even NOLA when all of the probate business is over. We’ll have to sit on the beach together !

    1. Kim, my sweet. When you’re down here, let me know. WE’ll have mimosas at sunrise and margaritas and salsa in the evening while we give ourselves sand pedicures and southern air facials (aka: humidity facials) 😉

  2. Loved reading this…. As a member of the CoU community and a previous New Orleanian, I cried as we had just vacationed there 4 months earlier. I visited the devastation one month after searching for friends who went elsewhere without ne’er a thought people were aching to know their status… And since have returned and been covered with chills that homes still sit with that big X marking the visit of volunteers…blue tarps still linger on roofs….the roads in some areas have asphalt buckled and erupting that is reminescent of what I can only image is weeks under water…

    I am thankful for my CoU here… People know how to prepare and our officials are educated and informative….we are blessed!

    And whatcha doin tonight…. Is more of precursor to an invite to burn some wood in the pit, as opposed to an inquiry to your plans for the evening!

    1. I can’t imagine the heartache of being there in the immediate aftermath.
      seeing, experiencing, feeling it.
      It takes a special kind of person to do that and come back from it. To return and battle on.
      Amen to the Whatcha doin’……
      Love you, My Dragon.

  3. Oh honey, that was so beautiful and heartfelt and moving and…I can’t even come up with all the right words. Also so well written. Just ….fantastic.

  4. Now that was as purty as 5 acres of blue bonnets after a week of spring rains. When you get on a roll you can paint reality with your words like no one else. Makes a Daddy proud.

  5. Rachel, this is such a fantastic and beautiful tribute to southern ways and southern people. I thinks it’s one of your very best posts evah! I love the way southerners talk so slowly and how southern women gush. Every description in the post had me saying that’s so true or that’s exactly how it is. Wow, just Wow. You write so beautifully! I’m such a proud mama.

  6. Oh girl, how I love this post. I have only lived here two years, but I LOOOOOOOVE it. I never heard of the CofU before I moved here, but we were smack inside it with Ike two weeks after we closed on our house 🙂

    And I love NOLA in a big fat way. I’ll be there twice in the next few months. Our big water industry convention (20,000 ppl) will be there in Oct and we’re doing this huge awesome community project in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the 9th ward…it’s gonna rock.

  7. This was an absolutely amazing post, Rachel. And your pictures reminded me I haven’t been to Corpus Christi in a few years, which is one of my favorite places.

    I wept watching the aftermath of Katrina on my TV, too. It made me so angry that so many people were suffering and nobody seemed to be doing anything. It was just so horrific. And New Orleans…that’s a beloved place for me, I’ve been there many times, wandered nearly every street of the French Quarter and the riverfront, rode the streetcar uptown to the Garden District….I love New Orleans like it was my ancestral home. It’s been hard to visit there since Katrina and see the devastation, but each time I’ve been back it’s been a little better.

    I’m not from Texas originally, but I’ve lived here now longer than I lived in the place where I grew up. Been through two hurricanes (Alicia and Ike), and I know my family thinks I’m crazy to stay here. Here we are, tiptoeing through another hurricane season, and you couldn’t have described it better than heaving a sigh of relief when it’s not us, but crying for our neighbors.

    There’s just no place else like the Gulf Coast, and the people here, and thank you for reminding us all of that with this post. Now come on, November. 🙂

  8. Just beautiful and so perfectly put. The southern lifestyle is one that I grew up with and have carried with me no matter where I go. It is very much a part of who I am and a part of who I hope my children will be one day. It is my roots, my beginning, my home and my family and just as you said…it will survive because it is who we are.


  9. You are an amazing writer and can paint emotions with words in ways that many can’t. In a completely selfish way, I wish you did more of it here. 🙂

    Beautiful post. Obviously.

  10. You speak so eloquently of a life I miss. The “y’all come over and we’ll cook something while the kids play” is something I brought up from my home and my friends here, way up here in Seattle, also understand the invitation.

    You’re right: Southern is not a place, it’s an atmosphere.

    Simply inspiring, darling. XO

  11. I love this post. It’s beautiful, heartfelt and amazingly true. I don’t live in the south…but each time I visit a part of my soul feels at home. you’ve captured that home, perfectly.

  12. I. Love. THIS! I live in Texas 30 miles from the coast and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just finished telling Maria Melee the same thing. I ‘ll take those few mos a year of eyes being glued to the weather channel in exchange for awesome winter weather and gorgeous water views and BEING SOUTHERN. I moved here 9 years ago from up north and I’d much rather be southern than anything else.

  13. The beauty of your words match the hope in your spirit. I loved you already but this post made me even more proud to do so.

  14. Rachel, how well put! Living on the Texas coast has me knowing exactly where you’re coming from. And, no, I wouldn’t change anything for the world!
    Here’s to another hurricane season under our belt and a prayer for safety no evacuations.

  15. And just one month later, it was us. And I still wouldn’t want to live any where else.

    Your words ring true. This is exactly what it is like to live here.

  16. Such an eloquently written post. Thank you for sharing your beautiful insights on the moral character and inner strength of the *Southerners*.

  17. Beautiful, but I hate that another storm, Danielle, is brewing out there in the Atlantic. At least it doesn’t appear to be heading toward the Gulf.

    Here in AZ at 110 degrees, we are receiving some much needed rain!

    1. thank you!

      I know, we’re keeping an eye on Danielle and hoping and praying it fizzles out and nobody suffers from it.

      It’s been well into the triple digits here, too! We’re supposed to be getting a “cool” front on Thursday, here’s to hoping!

  18. That was really touching. Thank you for sharing. I live in the mid-west in “tornado alley” and have similar feelings. I wouldn’t move. It is the best place on earth with the best people, and it is nice to know others feel the same way about where they live.

    1. Gracious, I think Tornadoes might be even more frightening! They seem to come out of nowhere!!!

      I’m glad you love where you live, it’s such a blessing!

  19. You just made me want to live in Texas. Hubby’s been trying to convince me of this for five years. 😉
    Really, though, this is a lovely post about home and where your heart obviously is.

  20. You have such a great and amazing way with words. I think this is possibly one of my most favorite post. xoxo

  21. The first picture is still one of my all time favorites! Being Southern and living in the South are two different things. You’ve done a good job of making that distinction. I’ve lived all over the world and the South, the Heart of Texas, that’s my home. It’s where I want to raise my kids to know the fun of skipping rocks in the Guadalupe, picking wildflowers on the ranch, the experience of true Friday Night Lights, to know the value of hard work and a brave people. I’ve lived in Tornado Alley and in the path of hurricanes. As long as we are in the South, we will recover and rise above. Every time.

  22. Now that down right gave me chills and tears. I’m not from the south, however, my Great-Grandma is from New Orleans. Her accent makes me warm inside. My mom even lived there for a while, and I went down to visit her one summer while I was on a break from boarding school.

    I could feel the happiness, I thought one day I would love to live deep down in the south. But life took me a different way.

    Thank you for writing this ~ I enjoy soul warming posts like this one.

  23. I’m a “Carolina Girl”. I grew up in SC and have lived in NC for 30 years. My Southern roots grow deep. Your words spoke to the depths of my soul. You express your felings as only a true GRITS could.

  24. Rach.. I am so glad I signed in to twiiter right as you posted this piece.. It is a wonderful, wonderful post and it makes me long to be a southern girl.. there is such a charm you all have that you have to search really hard for here.. and Diet Dr. Pepper.. that is where you lose me.. I am sooo a Coke Zero girl.. lol xoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxo

  25. This post is almost, ALMOST, as beautiful as you my sweet Steel Magnolia. I too grew up here in the South and while I’m not in the path of a hurricane ever, when it gets really hot here in Dallas and people ask me why I stay, I say it’s because I cannot imagine my life elsewhere. Though I will say, those pictures make me want to move to our beautiful coast. Love you, great post!!!!

  26. I don’t know where I’ll be living when I die, or how many places I’ll live between then and now, but I’m so grateful that I’ve had the chance to experience firsthand what you’re talking about here.

  27. Beautiful, so beautiful, Rachel. I now want to move to the south, just to be around all that wonderfulness. I think every region has their zone of uncertainty. For me currently, it’s the tornados. When I lived in California it was the earthquakes. Each place has it’s thing that will disrupt life, but it’s never enough to keep me away from where I want to be. Except Australia. They have spiders… huge, mean spiders. *shudders*

  28. Not sure if I’d want an “earthquake season” but the small ones are pretty fun for the most part. Only been in one big one (Northridge) in my lifetime. Fires are probably a bigger concern overall.

    A tornado hit near where we lived in Wisconsin and had “fun” with huge hail in New Orleans. There’s something everywhere.

    I’ll pass on the sweet tea and Dr Pepper but boy, just about everything else sounds great, especially Southern sea food!

    1. Rick,

      We’ll take you 😉 even if you won’t accept the Sweet Tea and Dr Pepper 🙂
      As for seafood, I’m making Salmon cakes this week 😉 Wish you could come down for it 😉

  29. I have said it before, you are the sweet tea in my day! God has blessed me by knowing you! Have a great day sweetness!

  30. Rachel,

    This post brought a huge smile to my face. Not only is it a lovely elegy to your homeland, but I was sitting here in my Seattle office drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper while I read it! May you have only quiet and uneventful hurricane seasons for years to come.

    Carol @cozifamily

    1. Thank you so much, Carol 😉
      I love that you love Diet Dr Pepper. You’re always in my heart and I’ll never forget the “ahah” moment we had at Mom 2.0 😉 <3

  31. Rachel,

    I am so happy to have found you again and WHAT a post this is! Sista, you really hit a home run with this one. It made me smile…love you my Southern sista…xoxo!

  32. Sweet friend, this is just a little slice of heaven – I missed it the first time around but am joyed I have seen it night…. I found myself smiling and nodding with each word, with each beautifully drawn visual. Just magic.

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