Wednesday, August 5, 2015

When the sky goes dark...

It's funny how things come full circle sometimes. This particular post was sidelined for a while, due to weddings downstate, laziness on my part, and whatever other nonsense there is in the world. Perhaps a little bit of Chicagoist stuff too, which is neither nonsense nor laziness, but there you have it.

I took this picture from my dear love's house one night. If you don't already follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you may not know that I'm a huge storm nerd. It grew out of a severe fear of storms and tornadoes when I was younger. I used to mostly hide under tables or in closets when storms rolled in, but eventually, maybe around high school, I started to get into what made storms tick, and became more than a little obsessed with thunderstorms and tornadoes.

So it was not at all unusual on this summer night for me to be watching stormclouds gather in the distance from the window in our living room. It was around sunset, and the clouds were a purpley gray that I found rather neat. This particular storm was taking its time building. I was happily breathing in charged air, thinking a good storm was just what my garden needed.

Then it changed. It was churning. The purple was getting a bit jaundiced. Instead of the clouds billowing in neat vertical stacks or along the line of a wall cloud, they started to twist. Yellow and pink and grey mixed like a palette had been tipped over.  The wind picked up. It wasn't time for it to be dark, but it was getting that way.

Sometimes there's a change that happens and you can't explain it. The sky can be purple, pink and yellow all at once and we're sipping margaritas under a palm tree on the beach commenting on how beautiful nature is. This wasn't that though. This was a muddy sky, a sudden stillness and a sick spiral.  I felt the fear clawing a bit, so I drew the curtains and consulted my sweetheart.  He's not exactly the weather nerd I am, and not as quick to worry, but he opened the curtains, had a look, and put his warm, familiar hand on my back and gave it a few soft rubs.  Immediately, the fear fell back, and I felt like I could safely weather the storm. He may not have seen what I saw, and he may not have felt what I felt, but he was behind me, and he would be there.

On this particular night, not much happened. There was a severe storm, a lot of lightning and thunder, and a soaking rain.

I say things come full circle, because just three days ago, I sat on the basement stairs watching a different storm. The kitten sat with me and we watched it blow in quickly. The lightning was seemingly non stop, and the wind was already bending branches. I was waiting for the rain.

Things changed again. Clouds moving in one direction started spiraling in. Not only that, they began collecting into a wedge. I felt uneasy, and the wind died again.  The wedge grew larger, then began descending. And kept descending. The kitten jumped out of her window perch, and I ran into the living room, and said..."I don't like that's really not right."

He took a look and agreed. The only comfort was that it looked to be past us, but that was short-lived, as the tornado siren roared to life not two minutes after. We ferried the cats and humans down to the basement, waited it out and resurfaced. It didn't miss this time. In fact, what I'd seen was an EF-1 tornado striking the southern part of our town and barreling head first into the neighboring towns. It levelled a pizza place my friend's dad worked at that I frequented in high school and after. It tore parts of the roof off of the high school there. In three separate cases, it was a block away from hitting the houses of loved ones.

Places I drive through every day were undriveable. Live wires sparked over houses whose lawns I ran barefoot through on some summer nights.  Giant trees that shaded town forever were ripped from the earth and snapped in half. It's frightening. It's amazing at the same time. I think the thing that's most interesting about tornadoes is the combination of their massive power and complete randomness.

You can't see it coming for days. It might jump one house and hit the next.  Yet it's this massive, destructive, insane force. Its winds are the most powerful on Earth, but it's there and it's gone. Sometimes, you get a few minutes of warning. Unfortunately, our warning came too late. You had to be watching the skies. I'm glad I was, and I'm glad those who may not have been made it out. It could have been so, so much worse.  Joplin. Moore. El Reno.

It's so weird. It's
You don't get warning.
One minute you're drinking a cocktail on a sunny lakeside patio, the next?
Who knows?
Maybe the ICU.
Maybe an accident.
Maybe a book deal.

It's hard to know what to expect. It's hard when the storm hits, the power goes out, and trees block your way out of town.

Honestly? It's hard for me, right now. I don't have a job. I'm trying to steer the ship in the right direction, but it means taking some chances, it means it's taking longer than expected. It means money and time are running out and I don't have a solution.

But the same hand that was at my back when the sky got dark is still there. He's encouraging me, helping me grow, helping me forge a path.  My mother is standing behind me too, and my friends.
It's scary. I almost hoped someone would say "Just take any job, make money, stop dreaming."

But nobody is saying that. They're telling me they're going to help me through this storm a different way. They're telling me they're going to support me when it makes life harder for them. It's amazing, and when I think the sky's getting dark again, and I think of that, it chases that fear out of my belly all over again.

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