An Imperfect Storm

From Jackass Hill

8/25/11

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Rabindranath Tagore

When I was 28, I came home from work on a humid evening in May and saw a funnel cloud out the back window.  It was huge, not far off and traveling in my direction.

I took hold of my toddler’s hand, picked up my infant son and headed down the hallway.  It was one of those every other nights that I functioned as a single parent while my husband was at work.  I instinctively pulled the mattress off the bed, dragged it on top of the three of us and spent the longest minutes of my life in a bathtub. 

When I emerged from under the mattress 45 minutes later, driving rain fell and the sky was dark as midnight at 6 pm.  The power was out.   The phone still worked long enough for me to answer a caller checking on us before it also went dead.  About an hour later, a second storm came through.  Two hours later, the National Guard arrived and sealed off the neighborhood.  Fourteen houses were leveled by those storms, starting with the one right behind ours.  Our house was untouched.

I gained respect for tornadoes that night.  Even though I’d grown up where tornadoes were as much a part of spring as greening grass, I had never had such a close-up, real-time view.   I’d never had to protect my children from one and I’d never had one bear down on me while living in a home without a basement.  Ever since, storms have held my attention.

Monsoon Season, Colorado

Last weekend, there was a spectacular storm in the mountains with hours of rumbling thunder and knife-like lightning.  My dog Rosie is terrified of storms and this one was particularly hard on her.   Seeing her distress reminded me of how anxious I used to feel about storms. 

I still give storms their due.  When it clouds up or the air starts to get clammy, I heed the change in weather.   But I finally quit automating my fear.  I realized I was always assuming the worst and that fear was keeping me from what I wanted.

Cloudburst, Littleton

Perhaps unintentionally, I became intentional.  Maybe I had learned something from life, gotten a little more wise and stretched a bit.  One day I realized that my fear of storms and my fears about life were standing in the way of a heck of a lot of possible good stuff.  So I let fly my doubting thoughts and stated this:

I am not afraid to say my truth.
I am not afraid to love and to be loved.
I am not afraid to enjoy too much of a good thing.
I am not afraid to fly by the seat of my pants and let life unfold as it will.
I am not afraid of the bumps and the bends and the solid walls that will appear in my way.
I am not afraid to leap without looking because sometimes what is just beyond sight is well worth the leap of faith. 

Once stated, my fears were far less formidable.  From the vantage point one earns with a certain age, my perspective changed.   In the time it took to gain a few more wrinkles and a lot more patience, I laid rest my fear of storms and a number of other long-held fears as well. 

Truth be told, my irrational fear of storms was the easiest to go.  As far as ridding myself of those other fears, I give partial credit to the often-present and various forms of tempests and squalls that I’ve met along the way.  Life gives you storms and lets you choose your response.  The way I react to the disappointments, setbacks, sorrows, difficulties and other attention-seeking events in life makes or breaks my ability to enjoy the sunny days that follow.   There is beauty in it all. 

Sunset, Lucky Dog Ranch

As there is beauty in the changing of weather.  Mountain living has helped me to appreciate storm clouds for they often bring rain and rain is always needed.  I know that after rain, in due course comes sunshine, and when sunshine follows rain, its brilliance is brighter.   I love the vivid colors and spectacular layers that one sees when the sun goes down behind storm clouds.  It is then, when a storm is waning and the winds have died that I have seen the most beautiful sunsets.                   

32 thoughts on “An Imperfect Storm

  1. Tempests and squalls along the way! Aren’t we all familiar with those…though your portrayal of how we approach these turbulent times offers us a worthy model. Thanks for sharing this- and the photos as well. You certainly have been intentional in your observations.

  2. Beautiful shots. I loved this post. The correlations between life and storms, and sunny days that follow. You always make me think.

    I have always loved storms. They are magnificent shows of nature’s force, and I especially love lightning and thunder. I’ve almost been hit by lightning a couple of times in my stupidity, once as close as a hundred yards, but I’ve been known to sit out on the patio and watch the lightning shoot through the air. I could easily have been a tornado chaser.

  3. Wonderful cloud pictures! I was fortunate enough to photograph a funnel cloud going over my house, (which I wrote about in Cloudy with a Chance of Pterodactyls). Fortunately it didn’t touch down! I feel very fortunate to live in a part of the world that has rain storms, even if it sometimes means hail. Very exciting!

  4. Colorado has the best clouds, eh? I don’t miss the random tornadoes and hailstorms, though. Or the loudspeaker lady, telling everyone to take cover, her voice booming across the city from the automated tornado sirens.

  5. Your statements are like affirmations & if you truly mean them, they will work. I have a love affair with the sky. Love this post. 🙂

  6. I have battled with fear most of my life. It is a paralyzing affliction. It has kept me from taking some roads less traveled and I am sorry for that. As the poet said: “Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.”

    Insightful post as usual and beautifully illustrated.

  7. Stunning photos, especially Littleton, and beautiful writing to go along with it.
    I remember storms in Belize and feeling very scared especially when hurricane Ivan was approaching, but your words of wisdom are comforting. I do miss the beautiful skies you seem to get as we’re in southern California where there aren’t that many changes.

  8. Yes, a series of squalls come and hit you…each like a ‘panzer tank’. Each attack last for five minutes. This goes on for the afternoon until you find yourself sitting only feet above the water in the middle of the ocean, staring at the dark monster on the horizon. Finally you ask…What’s that??

    It can be pretty frightful to be totally vulnerable and at the mercy of nature. Living with this fear during a major event, and being rational and respectful to the best that you can be, is some of what it takes to get through. As you are getting through…there is a high sense of being alive.

    There was an extraordinary evening here two days ago at South Mission Beach. This day was the first day of a Great White Shark sighting. The lifeguards had everyone out of the water. As I went for my barefoot run from the jetty to Crstal Pier and back… I sensed all here going along a horizontal plane. The beautiful thin tangerine clouds that stretched horizontal. The gliding pelicans that moved silently going south above the water. The black stealth sea lion just feet from the beach going south. The washed up kelp at the water’s edge. The long exspansive white sand. The endless procession of white foamed waves. The multitudes of people looking out to the horizon and the setting sun. And as the day closed, the boardwalk lights creating their long horizontal string of pearls.

    Yes, all horizontal until just before dark. Pelicans became aero dynamic, diving from above to catch their last meal for the day. The large sea lion became visable and somewhat stationary, while working to get the large Corbina that he caught down his throat. And as the sun set, I knew that the large dorsal fin that I saw just outside the long horizontal surf line was in search of the sea lion.

    This ‘horizontal plane’ is connected to ‘The Circle of Life’.

    The fearful tempest is connected to the beautiful sunset on a calm sea. The glorious mountain sunset is connected to the rage of light, sound, wind. and lashing rain of the inland tempest.

    Thank you Winsome…

  9. I’ve had recurring tornado dreams for 15 years they always involved me seeing a tornado first and trying to get people I love safe. That scenario you described in your REAL life was just like my dreams. Thankfully I haven’t had one in a year or more. I hope they are gone for good. Your pics are breath taking.

  10. It’s certainly a beautiful post, those photographs are gorgeous. I used to be more afraid of storms than I am these days. High winds still freak me out if I can hear them but strangely more if I hear them from indoors than out. We live in a valley and the wind comes swooping through it and invariably sounds worse than it is. (Thankfully).

  11. You know how I feel about your pictures and your writing, Stacia, and you keep my appreciation growing with posts like this one. How wonderful to keep gaining new perspectives on life as you get older! Some people get more fearful, not less, and cheat themselves out of experiences that would enrich their lives. Great post.

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