Not long after the sun came up yesterday the sky turned as dark as night. It was the complete absence of light. Starless and thick like ink. Heavy and eerily stock still. Not peaceful. Lifeless. First I thought of T. Bone who was picked up for a golf tournament as I left for work. Driving south, the direction they were headed, I felt uneasy as I glanced skyward and anxious for sending him on the open course with metal rods in his hands. So did the other mother. She turned around and brought the boys home with her safe and dry. Then I thought of Miss Bit who was home safe and dry, but alone. She was still sleeping when I left, and not rousing when I called again and again. I checked radars and listened for the sirens I feared might wake her. I felt panic for her vulnerability. We hadn't prepared her for this potential scenario. I found myself praying that this wouldn't be the one all while knowing it can always be the one.
Mother nature has been on the warpath. Assaults have been steady and increasingly violent. Every time I turn on the news, I'm bombarded with more destruction. The headlines read Twin Tornadoes or Baseball-Sized Hail or Dangerous Floods. I have PTSD from watching the Weather Channel. I've always appreciated a good storm, but I'm starting to rethink that.
I was in a tornado when I was a child. It was a late spring weekend. My extended family gathered in a small northwood's cabin for a bout of fresh air fun. Slowly and then all at once the dingy afternoon sky turned an unnatural greenish-yellow like lemon lime soda or a sickly aged bruise. Those jaundiced clouds gave reason to pause, but the abrupt noiselessness of the critter filled woods gave reason to seek cover. Birds stopped singing, crickets stopped chirping, squirrels and chipmunks stilled. It was as if we were suspended in time or dangling just above it. Everything was moving in slow motion or not at all including our dopey responses. My brother, who was about my daughter's age at the time and the youngest in the group, disturbed the catatonia when he cried for everyone to get downstairs. He felt the vacuum too. And then we all heard it. Yes, it sounds like a freight train. It started with a low roar and a rumble, and then it rushed, hissed and moaned. We filed into the basement more together than ever as the telling sounds raged toward us. My brother hunkered down under a workbench shaking. Someone turned on a radio. We listened and waited for the tornado to pass. It didn't take long. Within a minute or two which felt eternal, the storm hopscotched through the forest leaving behind downed trees and a wake of destruction. Immediately the air filled with warbling, tweeting, buzzing and calling again. It was as if someone flipped a switch. My family was safe. The funnel cloud whirred up and over our cottage that day. We were lucky. Neighbors were not quite as fortunate.
I can be taken right back to that afternoon by each one of my senses. The tastes, sounds, smells and sights are etched in my sensory memory. The feelings too. My heart is quickening as I type.
Mother Nature is fickle. She's as fierce as she is forgiving. Equal parts beauty and brutality. Her duality is what awes and humbles me most. It is one thing to say we are at her mercy, and another to believe it. I've been spared and yet I know this.