Driving home from teaching Curvy Yoga tonight, I was delighted by the flashes to the north and south. A parade of storms was circling its wagons. Because I love a good storm (good thing too, considering I live in Kansas), I drove foot loose and carefree, despite Wagner’s dramatic “Tannhauser” blaring dramatic build-up on the radio. Barely to the southern edge of Lawrence, Ken called: a blinding rain was here, and I would be driving right into it. I told him it was dry where I was but he assured me that the road to our house, just three miles away, was barely visible for him a moment ago.
There’s nothing like listening to Wagner while lightning illuminates a vast, dark grey monster you’re driving right into at highway speeds. I was surprised at how quickly (in a flash, so to speak) my happy storm anticipation turned into wheel-gripping apprehension. By the time I turned onto our road, I realized I was in a lucky pocket, arriving between waves, skirting the fingers of intense downpour.
Now, some hours later, I’m writing in the dark while big wind pours across the land, the rain sheets down, and rapid-fire lightning powers from all sides. The weather radio makes it buzzing sound to say something is upon us. The dog in the back room, the one with few windows and my sleeping son, claws anxiously at the door. The cats rumble across the living room floor, attacking each other and then forgetting their attack in the hunt for another hair tie to kill.
Usually, Ken is out of bed, checking radar for any hook-shaped blotches threatening tornado or hail, but this time it’s me, occasionally pausing to run to the porch and feel the wind, watch the soft gray edges of the traveling clouds, and listen to tens of thousands of raindrops make ground fall. The storm of the storm, unlike the storm before the storm, is the real thing. As I wrote in one poem in Stephen Locke’s and my book, Chasing Weather, you’ve got to respect that.
Respect the Storm of the Storm
Watch like your life depends on it.
The first wave pushes the blackbirds
over the seam of the darkening west.
Uplifting wind multiplies and divides the world.
Flags tatter themselves in its speed. Then sirens.
From the overhang of your porch, wait
for the imprint of lightning to open your eyes.
Surrender to the wide yawning of thunder, the tendrils
trailing the supercell, and the one sweet songbird
at once unaware and aware. Follow
the storm of the storm, not the storm you expect.
When the rotation makes landfall, go inside swiftly.
Rush the stairs to the basement, grabbing the small cat
and photo albums on the way. Call the neighbors
from the crawl space. Press the anxious dog to your chest.
Turn up the weather radio and let the tone of danger
vibrate through your beating heart.
Obey the hunter you once were thousands of years ago.