you thought who was in charge?
last night, in the dark, we couldn’t see. after the winds died, after the rain slowed to a lull, we swung beams of the flashlights, raked flickering bulbs through the limbs of the trees, searching for ones who’d not made it.
the sky the color of bruises, when the bump on your shin turns that god-awful purply-green, i ventured out to the street that had turned to a river. saw whole halves of trees sprawled in their dying, smack against asphalt, what had been the lanes but now was the slow-stirring current.
i couldn’t stay long, though, because the rain, like a faucet, turned on again. and the lightning wasn’t far either.
and besides, inside was as dark as the outside. maybe darker. looked, by now, like little house on the prairie. most likely, a long night ahead, making like ma pioneer and her kinfolk.
candles were burning. i’d stolen an armful from the fridge, before it lost all its cool. i would make do: near-frozen sausage, cold squares of pasta, brussel sprouts i managed to steam.
it doesn’t take long to stand in amazement at the power of the electrical grid. you bump along into realizing, one after the other, just how much of your life cannot be, when the lights dim, then flicker, then die.
all the hum of the house stopped. there wasn’t a sound but the pounding of rain, and the little one’s gasp.
we’d all been in the basement. watching the news on tv. watching the red splotches right over our town on the map that showed where the storm was, that spelled out the wrath of the late summer’s fury.
we went to the basement when the trees went horizontal. when all that was green turned to silvery-gray. because nothing was up anymore. everything turned on its side. even the rain came in sideways.
it had taken three hours for the one new to high school to get home from the school just five miles away. with a late summer tornado in the offing, they’d locked down the campus. stuffed some 1,000 kids into the cafeteria. then, when they got the all-clear, when they let them onto the buses, it took a good hour to course home through the downed power lines and the trees that were blocking the streets.
he came in with a soaking-wet smile. it had been a five-star adventure.
we thought the worst of it was over. but that’s when the lights dimmed and died. a gasp, then a shudder, then darkness.
we three in the basement, the deeply black basement, we shuffled and groped for each other. we climbed up the stairs, dug out the candles, the matches, the flashlights.
we got a call from the village. do not leave your houses, they warned. there were trees down all over town. roads blocked. power lines dangling. live ones, they made sure to mention.
i figured we were in for a few days of darkness. gulped hard, realized once the last drop of light was wrung from the fading night sky, this game would get old. i’d not want to play pioneer. i’d long for the microwave popcorn.
the little one, the one who takes flashlights to bed, he thought this was pure heaven. put himself in charge of dessert, scoured the pantry looking for sweet things you could eat that didn’t need light or heat. believe me, he was stocked within minutes.
but just as we sat down to our candle-lit dinner, the dinner prepared by the gas of the stove, the lights, brighter than i’d remembered, it seemed, snapped right back on. the whole house, the whole street, dotted with lights that any other night i’d take wholly for granted.
the tv, once again on, told us the winds had whipped up to 80 miles an hour. some 1200 trees were down in the city. light poles too. cars and houses were crushed.
then the call from the school came. high school, which had been in session for all of one day and a half, was cancelled. the back-to-school buzz was put on hiatus. and, believe it or not, that was not news met with a grateful reception. it was rather deflating to a boy who’d just gathered the steam to start climbing that steep high-school hill.
and so, not much later, i rolled into a bed with an alarm clock blinking beside me. and all through the night i tossed and i turned to the far-off wail of the sirens.
when light came, i tiptoed out where before i’d not been able to see. i looked into trees, heard the sigh from all that survived.
i tried to tend to the wounded. dragged broken limbs off of bushes, hauled logs from the garden.
on a morning of eerie strange calm, in the dawn of an unsettled day, it’s not hard to get goosebumps.
it’s not hard, not at all, to remember that not for a minute do we know what each hour will bring. on a dime, winds change. the sky turns to odd ugly colors. all that was, might not be.
don’t bother to think that you are in charge of what’s scribbled there on the calendar, or even what hangs in the trees.
someone else blows the wind.
the wrath of a late summer’s fury leaves the world weak at the knees. most of all, is everyone safe? when you surveyed the scene in the morning did you hear a few cracks in your heart? is it not humbling to learn once again that we are but markers on the game board that is our small planet? all across the country, the sweep of weather’s great wrath is tweaked and twisted. my ugly day might be your beautiful morning. not a bad back-to-school lesson: count on little, but do count your mercies. some mornings, they’re big as the trees that still scrape the sky.
Mother nature rules all, maybe that’s why they never called Father nature. funny eh?
it looks like a war zone on the blocks just beyond mine. you think you’ve seen the worst, then you step a little bit farther, and worse still it gets. you all know, perhaps, that i do believe my friend terra sees nature with profound and poetic eyes. she just sent along this, and i thought that rather than pasting it simply on the lazy susan, i would paste it below, here where the subject is the ravage of nature….pull up a chair, listen in…her words will hold you as these winds threaten to whip up again……from terra brockman’s farm and food notes…”Raging storms have always been a source of joy to me. Ever since I can remember, storms have called out forcefully, eliciting a blissfully atavistic response in me. Curtains of lightening, sheets of rain, and unrelenting winds are irresistible and oddly comforting. The sound of thunder can be the most modern-world-effacing sound on earth. The centuries re-roll in its rumble, and you return to a young, green time when the sea and the sky and the land were just getting acquainted, having known each other for only a few billion years. This gale-tossed day gave me a feeling of elation and well-being. I remember the same feeling running back through the chain of storms, down the years of my life clear back to a summer storm 40-some years ago. I was at my grandparents’ farm in Danforth when the storm erupted, and Grandma hurried us into the house, quick and sure as a mother hen. As we watched the trees pitch and sway and the rain beat down, I wanted desperately to be out in the wind’s embrace. As soon as the storm began to fade, Grandma turned her attention away from the kids and back to the kitchen. And before the last drops had fallen, I raced back outside, full of the energy of the storm. It fueled my little body as I went dancing through the grass, my toes plucking up the long stems of the storm-denuded dandelions. Perhaps my dance was simply a result of the high voltage of the lightening, which was breaking up and re-connecting oxygen atoms, forming ozone, that light blue gas that gives the world its fresh, clean, after-the-storm smell. (Ozone derives from the Greek word ozein, which means to smell.) But I think I was also energized by the fresh, new world after the rain, which felt so much like the ancient world before we bi-peds ruled the earth. A storm answers all questions, and always in the same way: We are insignificant creatures, and the earth will prevail. It’s good to know, storm after storm, that natural forces can and will trump the best efforts and the worst follies of mankind. Like King Lear—who, naked in the raging storm upon the English heath, finally came to a humble self-knowledge before the power of nature—I cheered the tempest on: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!You cataracts and hurricanoes, spoutTill you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,Vaunt couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at onceThat make ingrateful man!—King Lear, Act III, Scene 2″
When I hear a nice, sudden, explosive thunder clap, I have always felt a rush of adrenaline, followed by an overwhelming sense of God’s mighty hand, of His nearness, and I feel safe and secure, like my Daddy just paid me a visit.Bring on the thunder.
Apparently, Wilmette is being mentioned on the national news as the epicenter of last Thursday’s storm. So, I have been getting e-mails from friends around the country asking on our well-being. I am sending them the link to this Daily Meander, because it describes better than I could how the day happened. Plus, there is Terra’s take on storms in general–nature reminds us that we are only creatures on a stage of earth and atmosphere.
So what did we do on Thursday night, you ask? My dear, but stubborn husband after a draining week and most intense day of work, almost ready for a week’s vacation, is keen to go to IKEA. It’s 6:30 pm just after one of the many waves of storm (Noah’s Ark came to mind) and our kids say more storms are coming. I say I don’t this is a good idea? It’ll be fine, he says.So he and I dash to the car, tell our kids, particularly the most concerned daugher, that we’ll be fine, that we’ll drive carefully and that we’re armed with our cell phones. Off we go from Hyde Park to Bolingbrook. We were treated to torrential rains and a spectacular (scary I would say) lightning show. I continued my refrain how this wasn’t a good idea. After fielding about 4 calls from our daughter, we arrive at IKEA. Guess what? Parking was a snap because we were among a few of insane people there. Fifth or sixth call from daughter — the power went out at home so they couldn’t finish the dinner dishes. They found the flashlights. One son constructed a shrine — lighted candles with his statue of Buddha and Hindu Shiva — on his desk (very clever). Anyway, we found the all important file cabinet (don’ ask) and drove home with more rain, the green sky and another lightning show, but no floods or big damage. I like to call it living with Mr. Stupid, or perhaps you are all thinking that I am the stupid one to allow this field trip to happen at all.
hmmm, all the while, as you are coursing through highways and scandinavian design, we are fielding repeated, and i mean repeated, calls from the village telling us not to exit the buildling…ahhh, darling, i would call yours life with the adventure traveler. he never met a rapids, a kayak, or a pontoon boat he didn’t love. so why on earth would the windiest thursday in a long long while keep him homebound in ol’ hyde park? are the files supremely organizing your life? was it worth the adventure? by the way, my photo up above looks so wimpy compared to most of what’s out there. i’d reshoot and scare the behoozies out of y’all, but i will leave that to the newspapers, and let what was be what was…….i just went out for a walk but came home because i heard creaking up above and feared some of the dangling limbs could make salad of my brains. and i don’t care to be speared with a tine. not today anyway. today the tread in the basement will have to suffice…….the sound of power saws is the tune of the day around here. a very sad sound. thank God you’re safe, s and l. and god bless the boy with the shrine-building skills and wisdom. xoxoxo