The Storm Before the Storm, and the Actual Storm: Everyday Magic, Day 819

IMG_5891 2Driving 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.

Living With Men Who Love Storms: Everyday Magic, Day 353

The men in my house love storms. Obsessively. Completely. It’s not that I don’t love storms too, but I also love sleep, watching movies and taking many baths. The men in my house, however, are single-minded when a storm is afoot, rushing downstairs with laptops to switch through TV news while turning up the weather radio, all in between running outside to look at the sky and turning out all the lights inside to get a better view.

It used to be the man in my house who loved stormed, but since Daniel moved back in, this storm mania went exponential, each of them calling out to the other, pointing to new websites on the screen or low-hanging clouds in the sky. It can go on for hours, and god help anyone who gets in their way.

Last night, after long discussions about atmospheric instability, why was the big cloud to our south continously roaring, and how unusual it is for such unpredictability to be at the front of a storm, I went to bed. Only to be pulled out of bed ten minutes later. “Caryn, it’s too unstable. Get down to the basement,” Ken said. “Hurry up, Mom,” Daniel called after him. The winds picked up, we heard reports on half-dollar-sized hail near us, and the sky strobe-light-flashed. Both men vanished, but I soon found them sitting on the front porch, bedazzled by the lightning.

Within half an hour, I was back in bed, but not the men in my my house. No matter that the worst part of the storm was on its way to Kansas City, safely east of us. They needed to track that too.

Supercell in Poetry & Video: Everyday Magic, Day 344

As Stephen Locke and I continue our collaborative book project on storm words and images, I’ve written my first poem to accompany a video of Stephen’s, entitled “Supercell Thunderstorm 5 south of Cunningham, Kansas 5-20-11.” Watch the video and read the poem. Thanks!


Did you think your life was straight as this road,

something that could be time-lapsed into a predictable gait?

Did you ever try to map lightning, predict when

the thunderhead would pause and fold in on itself?

Have you pointed to a place in the clouds and said,

“there” just before a ghost cloud twisted briefly into form?

It is all nothing, then supercell, multiple stikes through

the clouds while the tips of the grass shimmer awake.

From the deep blue that narrates your life

comes the pouring upward of white curves and blossoms.

From the dark, comes the thunder. Then the violet flash.

From the panorama of what you think you know

comes the collapse of sky, falling on you right now

whether you’re watching the weather or not.

The world dissolves, reforms. What comes surprises,

motion moving all directions simultaneously, like the

losses you carry, talismans strung through your days, singing

of those you’ve loved deep as the blue framing the storm.

It rains for a moment in the field, in your heart,

then the weather stretches open its hand of life and says,

here, this whole sky is for giving.