Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Ready or Not
Last spring, if you remember me saying so, was the most beautiful season I had ever seen. So many perfect days shaking off the cold grip of winter. Clear blue skies, moist green grass, forested hills blushing with life...it was stunning. I felt like maybe I'd never actually seen spring before.
Ever since having kids, though, I have been seeing spring more clearly -- appreciating it better. It probably has some complicated psychological underpinnings: I need to know for certain that new life blossoms into beauty, rather than focusing on the downturn at the end of the season's cycles, no matter how lovely. There's an emo-connection between the springtime of my children's lives and the springtime of the earth tilting on its axis. Spring means hope.
But it's becoming twisted up in my mind, now. Oh, I love spring and I'm so ready to welcome it back with open arms this year, but at the last second, I draw those arms back to my chest and wrap myself up. I curl away protectively.
Spring is practically here -- February has had an extra day slipped into her stack of dull days this year, but the Leap day can't hold off the inevitable. Sunrise creeps through the curtains earlier, sunset lingers later, and the days are being stretched out along the edges. Unfurling, I guess.
But in my city, in my corner of the world, in my backyard, spring means storms. I've never feared them, rather embraced the quick-lived excitement of some thunder and lightning.
When I was a little girl, I'd sit on my grandparents' front porch, watching the sky over the field as a storm blew in. Grandpa or Grandma or an entire family would stand, hands in pockets, eyes eager, and watch the storm. It was expected. It was something in which to revel. We'd only go back inside when the rain started blowing in sideways under the porch's roof. I've loved storms for years. Their dark intensity, their blustery noise...
Only, it's changed for me now. I hope not irrevocably, and I hope not dramatically. But you can't live through the massive destruction of a tornado like Joplin saw last spring and not come away with some new reservations. I can't, at least.
And last night, before spring had even technically arrived, a storm threatened. Facebook was alight with people announcing their intentions to stay with friends or family who had storm shelters. Prayers were shared. Nerves were re-strung, tighter than before. And where I would have gone to bed happily, expecting to hear some wind and rain and thunder in the middle of the night, I could not sleep.
I listened to the meteorologist's calm voice talking us through the fear. Expect winds gusts of 80 miles per hour; golf-ball, and even baseball sized hail are not out of the question, so stay away from windows. A large, dangerous tornado has been spotted two counties away, but Joplin is still only under a tornado watch...
His voice droned, but I held tightly to every word.
Outside, the wind was being whipped to a frenzy. Some unseen conductor with raised arms was directing it furiously, I was sure. It howled and slammed against our house's walls. The roof beams groaned against it. The windows shuddered. The electricity flickered with warnings: a light-morse-code, spelling get ready. And that was all before the actual storm was upon us.
Once the rain came, everything was louder, more frightening. It blew in sheets, buffeted and forced by gusts. Small hail pebbled overhead. Lightning and thunder punctuated the bursts of air -- the conductor building his overture into a terror of light and sound.
And then it was over. It was past us.
I unclenched my hands painfully. There were angry red-crescents where my fingernails had dug into my palms, and my shoulders were bunched with tension.
Yes, spring is unfurling. I will try to do the same.
*Update: while Joplin was spared, Branson, Missouri was not. Spring is here, indeed.