Storm Center

Today is my birthday, and here I notice that I’ve kept this log for about a year. My first items–from the mental backlog–sprang forth last spring, and here we are again, enjoying spring on the plains. Another year older, but not much smarter. The Iconoclastic Dog is a year older too, yet she remains the same, eschewing labels. Give me green grass and a hint of rabbit ‘neath the firs, and I’m happy, she avers.

And, as always, I agree. Say what you want about her, she is not one to over-analyze. And while I may not be able to emulate such a philosophy, I do admire it.

It was a wet May. Out here the weather patterns tend to set themselves for a while, offering calm or violence as is the gods’ wont, then abruptly shift to something new. To a Midwesterner, it’s a kind of weather roulette. Folks in San Diego wouldn’t understand, but we enjoy the challenge.

So May offered weekend storm after storm, followed by strangely calm work weeks (feeding rumors that the weather pattern is somehow tied to the Dow Jones). One Saturday was particularly spectacular, offering up 18 twisters in a single night for Nebraska, flash floods in Iowa, and massive storms in Kansas, Oklahoma¬† and elsewhere. The little town of Hallam, in south-central Nebraska, was destroyed. Less than 10 percent of the buildings were left standing, and the entire town has been condemned, its homes unlivable. People joke about it, but this was actually one of those Level 4 storms that had folks spotting cattle flying through the air. Not funny when you’re the cow, or the owner of the cow.

Dozens of the town’s residents broke into the bank and huddled in a vault as the tornado swallowed up their homes. They say the sound is almost unbearable, and this one took a slow saunter through town, finishing the place off with a businesslike thoroughness. The brick bank building, like most others, actually collapsed. But the people, who are at least as important as currency but not always so well-housed, were safe in the vault. One woman died in her home, struck by debris before she could reach her basement stairway, but that was the total mortality. Mostly these people lost their past and present, and the future doesn’t look so bright either. But they live.

Our experience in the city has been less dramatic, but we’ve had our share of excitement. On the Saturday following the destruction the storms were back, and this time they hit the city pretty hard. We were having a dinner party and at times had to shout over the thunder. Our guests exhibited that nervousness we sometimes feel when experiencing a cataclysm away from our familiar homes. It was a celebration of electricity and raw power, without regard for the plans of the men and women. The point was not lost on us.

We cling deftly but precariously to the exposed surface of this world, which at any time might be swept clean of us or our neighbors by indifferent nature. Yet we cling, and we hope that today’s storm will pass us by, and we try not to think of what realms it will cleanse instead.

We live in the sometimes violent plains, but no one is safe from the storms, which take so many awesome and terrible forms these days. And there is no preparing now, no safe haven really, if there ever was, from what may come. All we can do is keep our grip, and remind each other of how wonderful, how beautiful it all has been. And will be.

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