This afternoon, I stepped out on to the porch, expecting a damp, cold day. It had been slate gray all day, and there was never a break in the clouds. It rained on and off; nothing serious, but definitely wasn’t leading me to believe it’d be …. warm. Really gray and gloomy and really warm. There was rain in the air, literally and figuratively, and I was instantly transported to my childhood home.
These were the days that we ran around the neighborhood, jacked up on the electricity in the air. When it was still warm out, so we’d ride bikes or play ball — it was warm like summer, but without the beating heat of the sun. I’m sure we were given strict instructions to not be in the lake when it was storming, but if it hadn’t yet started, we’d be in the huge(ish) waves of the lake, finding the warmth of the lake to be remarkable, despite the ever-increasing wind.
I have a vision — a memory — that I have locked in my brain. I know exactly where I was standing — right on the edge of the property line between my backyard and Uncle Speck’s yard. There were two trees that made a big enough space to run through or ride bikes through — none of those lakeside lots were fenced off; we ran and screamed and played and made up games and hid and laughed as much as we wanted.
I remember looking up at an ominous sky and just feeling so fucking alive. Just tingling with the excitement of a possible storm and seeing just HOW LUSH AND GREEN everything was. Sort of like the pictures I was to see 20+ years later, infused with deep, dark color on Instagram. But this was real life and the present moment and how fucking glorious! I wanted to run and jump and fly — I had so much energy flowing around inside me.
If it began to pour, we’d end up in our garage, hanging out with the neighbor kids and rollerskating or playing with chalk or pretending something. I knew if the sky was green-gray it was dangerous, and I knew if everything went dead quiet, that was worse than a big storm.
When we were very small, a tornado ripped through Wind Lake. I heard the story repeated at various times when I was growing up; the whole thing was vague and hazy — I remember being woken up and brought to the basement with some donuts. My mom was worried and thus, my sister, too; my father, on the other hand was standing in the livingroom, watching the storm from the three sets of windows overlooking the lake. I wanted to be up in the livingroom with him — seeing what he saw, feeling the incredible energy.
But I was stuck downstairs with my nervous mom and crying sister, wondering if and when anything bad was going to happen. In reality, in later retellings of the events, it became quite clear that when my dad *heard* the train rushing through the neighborhood, it was already too late. If the tornado had decided to make an errant turn, there wasn’t a thing he could have done about it.
And isn’t that the way? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even with all of our radar and smartphones and modem marvels of meteorology, if a hurricane or tornado or earthquake want to take us, they will. Regardless of our status or education or upbringing. We are still helplessly hopeless when it comes to defeating Nature.
As it should be, really.