Monday, April 4, 2011

Pompt Blog 7

I used to be terrified of storms. They’re not really part of the landscape, but they cause it to shift, they rumble in from the horizon, and the sky is as much a part of my environment as the land. Even heat lightning sent me on edge. When I was young, I would hide underneath a quilted baby blanket, hug the raggedy blanket that I carried everywhere, and curl up beneath a window or atop a recliner. Then I would stay there, cringing at the booms and shrinking from the lightning, listening carefully to detect when the storm drifted away. The day I sat cowering beneath the kitchen window, my grandmother taught me how to anticipate thunder by counting.
“When you see lightning, start counting. Whatever number you get to, that’s how far away the storm is. If the thunder hits before you start counting, that means the storm is right above us.”
I remember thinking that counting was crazy. It didn’t help me anticipate a storm, just tell how far away it was. But fine, I was a dutiful granddaughter.
FLASH, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, BOOOM!
Three miles away and getting closer. Oh no!
Knowing how close the storm was actually enhanced my fear. The closer it got, the stronger it got. What if the house was hit by lightning? What if the house burned down? What if a tree fell on the room, or flew through the window? What if the wind knocked the house down? What if we lost electricity? What if it brought a tornado! Not a tornado!

Living in western Pennsylvania my entire life, I shouldn’t fear tornados. It’s an irrational fear because I’ve never encountered one, just seen its damage on the Weather Channel. For some reason, when I was about five or six years old, I would sit in my finished basement and watch the Weather Channel for hours at night when nothing else was on TV.
I kept this fear of storms through middle school. Then one day, after some sort of after school activity. like a PTA meeting I sang at or a poetry group I was part of, Mom and I stood underneath an awning in front of the school and watched a storm. I gripped her tight around her waist as we watched it rage, my hand clenching her shirt behind her back. It must’ve lasted only fifteen minutes, but in that time I realized how absurd it all was. Really, the pale yellow or white lightning bolts were beautiful against the dark blue clouds. And nothing was happening to us; we were safe.
From that point on, my fear slowly abated. No longer would my heart pound with the thunder. No longer would I dive underneath my covers. I left my quilted blanket where it was. My raggedy blanket went untwisted.
By high school, I began to love storms. Around that same time, I was introduced to Wicca and energy. I started watching the pattern of birds before and after storms. I started to stare at the horizon as a storm rolled in and the clouds shifted darker or lighter. I stood still as the precursor wind brushed my hair from my face and wrapped around me as it changed directions, not knowing which way to go. I started opening myself to the storm, taking the tumultuous, powerful energy into me like taking that first inhale of sweet, fresh wind in the spring. I would grin as strobe lightning took a hundred pictures of my spinning ceiling fan. I’d laugh as the thunder spit and growled overhead like a giant pissed off panther.
It’s interesting to note that my love for storms grew as my family life deteriorated. My life inverted. I embraced the outer chaos while I strove to deny the household’s. I would lie in bed and imagine flying through the storm. Nobody bothered me when it was storming. While my parents hunkered down, I lived. I was free. I could control the energy roiling around me, control whether it affected me. I would bring it around me, bring it into me, and breathe. They could take away my walks, take away my music, but they couldn’t take away my storms.
To this day, when a storm arrives, it’s like a lost lover coming home. I look forward to spring and summer storms. I consider December storms and thundersnow to be Nature’s gift to me. If it storms after a bad day, it’s Nature consoling me, making me smile. If it storms after a really bad event that left me crying, it’s Nature’s way of providing a soothing embrace. The rain hushes, the wind wraps, the lightning is Nature’s anger on my behalf, and the thunder is Nature’s voice as it tells me that Karma will do its work in time and I needn’t worry.
Every so often, I try to physically personify storms. If they were a character, what would they manifest as? Or, would the character of storms be like the character of place, and I don’t need to change a thing? I’ve always given them an autonomous consciousness, would I need to give them anything else? If they were a human, would they be male or female? I haven’t decided. Both work just as well. If a character associated him or herself with storms, what gender would they be? Would it have to matter? Certainly I would incorporate scientific research into the character, make the personalities match, make them have tumultuous emotions before they explode in passion. Make them change colors, make their eyes flash, give them a stronger electromagnetic field, make them able to conjure other forces or other characters around them. For nature writing, I could make a creative nonfiction piece about my childhood and the growing mental and emotional abuse I received, research storms to explain how they work, and then explain how I would draw them around me.
One day I may incorporate storms as a sentient being into my stories. But right now, I’m comfortable enough just exploring them in my own time, in my own way. When the day comes that I make them a character, then that’s when it was supposed to happen.


  1. I like how you chronicled your relationship with thunderstorms and how they went from a source of fear to comfort. I especially like the idea of personifying them! Storms would make some incredible characters.

  2. You have some beautifully rendered scenes here in such a short piece! You made me remember how much I love storms and how terrifying they used to be.

  3. I really like Beth and Caroline's comments. The element of inversion is awesomely accentuated throughout this post. It reminds me of something I read about Chinese philosophy; everything is constantly in the process of flowing into its opposite. I've come back to this idea a lot for myself and it certainly seems to be present here. Interesting stuff!

  4. Thank you for all your wonderful comments! I'm glad you've all enjoyed this. I may lengthen it a bit and try to send it out. Quite fond of it. Cassie, I hadn't even thought of that!

  5. Ha! We had such a similar run-in! Leave it to millions of watts of electricity shooting out of the sky to make us shake in our boots.

    I think my storm is a sumo wrestler, covered in tattoos, who bangs a gong, smokes cigars, and hurls throwing knives into the empty seats of his arena.

  6. Or the not so empty seats! He's so big that he can't see his tiny audience!

    Remember learning about the giants in the sky who go bowling? I used that with my younger half-brother within this past year. He asked me about the lightning. I told him it was strobe lights because it was cosmo bowling.