Wednesday, December 1, 2010


It was just after 1:00 in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. Outside, cold drizzle peppered the windows as a gusty wind whipped around the house. Inside, the island in Grammy's kitchen groaned under the weight of a Thanksgiving feast - turkey, ham, dressing, baked sweet potatoes, oven-roasted squash, cranberries, green beans, salad, hot rolls, and half-a-dozen desserts. Nearly 30 hungry, holiday-spirited people gathered in the warm kitchen, heads bowed as Granddaddy prayed. Then came the storm warning...

Before the first slice of turkey had been speared, the TV in the corner of the room announced the approach of a tornado. A spout had been identified only a few miles to the northwest. According to the flashing TV screen, the tornado would reach our location in just under 17 minutes. "Hang on a minute, everyone," Granddaddy instructed. "Grab your coats and shoes and get ready to go to the basement." Grammy spread a large tablecloth over the top of all the dishes of food, while my sister-in-law went to fetch her sleeping grandson from his crib in the front bedroom. A few of the guys rustled up flashlights. Several of the younger kids, giggling nervously, began the descent into the dank, dark, musty basement, while the adults watched the TV screen, glancing occasionally out the windows. Steve and I headed out back to the deck where we could watch the sky and the wind-whipped clouds.

We waited. And listened. And Thanksgiving dinner waited, too.

The tornado passed by high overhead and was gone before we realized it, with nothing more than a dark sky and lashing rain to signal its going. Relieved, we all gathered again in the kitchen. Granddad prayed a prayer of thanks that we had been spared from any worse weather. And then the feasting began!

I thought the different reactions to Thursday's storm were interesting. One group quickly and efficiently organized and headed straight to the basement. Another fixated on the TV, their eyes locked on the flashing sweep of the weather radar. And then Steve and me - we walked out into the storm.

I can't answer for Steve, but I know why I headed outside. It's the way I was raised.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse with a deep front porch that ran the width of the house. On one end of the porch hung a lovely porch swing, a favorite place to loll on a summer afternoon with a good book or to enjoy a gentle spring rain while sipping a glass of sweet tea. That porch swing was also an awesome vantage point from which to enjoy the violent thunderstorms of early summer.

I can remember Mom heading out to sit in the swing when a blustery storm roared up. I'd join her, wrapped in a blanket to keep off the spitting rain. The lightening and thunder put on an incredible show while the wind whipped the wildly-dancing trees in our yard and the rain drummed on the roof overhead. I guess I learned at an early age to run out into the storm instead of running inside to get away from it!

Monday afternoon, I had a choice of taking my daily walk during a rain shower or skipping my walk altogether. I chose the rain. I discovered that rain on the pond sounds like sshhh, sshhh, but rain on the leaf-lined floor of the forest sounds like a million pop! pop!-s. Rain in the pasture sounds like a long, quiet sigh, but rain on the revived creek sounds like a gurgle of laughter. At one point, the weather kicked up considerably and I began to wonder if there was any danger of getting struck by lightning. Heavy drops hammered the tin roof of the hay barn as I passed by - I held out my hand and let the run-off pummel my upturned palm.

I was completely soaked through by the time I returned to the house, and a little bit cold. I wondered what it would be like to be a Scotsman out on a wild, stormy moor. I smiled as I shook off as much water as possible before heading inside. It felt wonderful to be alive.


Jenny said...

What a lovely picture.

You should write a book.

And give me an autographed copy.

tracy said...

Your brother wants to be out in the storm too. I thought it was just him.

Suzanne said...

Out in the storm. The front porch is always the best place to feel the air, see the flashes of lightning silhouette the trees, feel the rumble of the thunder even before hearing it crash. There's no place like it. It just plain feels good to be so acutely aware of the presence of all that power and be safe. Now let's hear what Scott and Wesley have to say about storms.