The Joy of Storms

As a small girl growing up in Texas, I vividly remember the power of the thunderstorms.  The lightening casting shadows in the dark and the ensuing crack of thunder.  I remember feeling scared, mostly of the unknown, but also feeling awed and amazed by the sheer force of nature.  I always knew I was small and insignificant in comparison.  Much later in life, after we moved to Wyoming, thunderstorms became one of my favorite things.  I love the smell of sage after a hard rain in the high desert prairie.  The cool breeze as the storm passes and the sun creates a full rainbow on the horizon.  But mostly, it’s the smell of sage that fills me with joy.

When I was three years old a Category 2 hurricane hit Galveston, TX.  I have a picture of my dad holding me on the beach about 30 hours before the storm made landfall.  The winds were easily over 50 mph, and you can see the strain as he tries to hold still for the picture.  I have no memory of that storm.  When I was nine years old another Category 4 hurricane was on a direct path to Houston.  We lived in Alvin at the time, and I remember vividly the preparations for that storm.  We lived in a wooden clapboard house and my parents heeded the warnings to evacuate.  I remember packing our most valued possessions and loading both vehicles to the brim.  Then we nailed plywood over all our windows, locked the doors, loaded out pets and left.  I remember looking out the back of the car as we drove away.  The sky was dark and ominous, and it was just starting to rain.  I was too young to understand that we may be returning to total ruin, I only understood that it was a big storm, big enough to swallow us if we didn’t get away.  We drove inland and weathered the storm with friends.  And when we returned home our house was still standing.  I remember the joy I felt at that sight.

I remember my first winter storm and blizzard.  Those familiar feelings of fear of the unknown were less intense than what I experienced as young child.  I watched the snow circle around as the wind howled, visibility no more than a few feet out our windows.  I remember the beauty of the ice crystals when the sun finally peeked through the clouds.  I love winter storms.  I always make our favorite soups and stews.  I love sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and watching the snow fall, blanketing everything in white.  We all snuggle under blankets, the kids, the dogs, and we watch movies.  I love the day after the storm, shoveling snow as a family, making a snowman or a snow cave, and watching the dogs tromp around and play.  It’s the family time that makes winter storms fill me with joy.

Hail, let’s talk hail.  Thunderstorms in Cheyenne are unlike those I have memories of as a small girl in Texas, or even those on the prairie in western Wyoming.  These storms pack a different kind of punch.  They brew and build, and I love watching them form in the distance almost every summer afternoon.  And when they finally unleash, they are violently spectacular.  They often bring hail, downburst wind and hurricane force winds, torrential rain, and flash flooding.  And they are over as quickly as they begin.  We were pummeled by softball sized hail stones the first summer we lived here.  They left divots to rival a golf course in our lawn.  That year we replaced the roof, gutters, the front door, and several windows.  The next summer we hunkered in the basement while the tornado sirens screamed.  We listened as 2” hail stones shattered our sky lights.  Another new roof.  And my flowers and garden plants were shredded.  Every time one of these storms passes, I feel joy at the power of nature.

I know living on the ocean will usher in new storm experiences, and I look forward to the joys hidden in those storms.  Living aboard means that you are living in the power of nature.  Squalls come up from nowhere and calm seas can become huge swells in no time.  There is a false sense of security with modern technology, but ultimately, we are all at the mercy of nature.  I look forward this new relationship with nature.

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