Lightening lit the room for an instant, white against my closed eye lids. I woke up just enough to note the time, 4:45 a.m., and fell back asleep to rain falling hard against the roof.
When I stepped out the door this morning and felt the warm air on my face and heard the rumbling of thunder, something stirred within my soul.
We ran down the walk, diving for the cover of the car before the rain was unleashed again, spattering the windshield seconds after the car doors slammed.
Tornado weather, I told him. The air was full of it. You don’t have wind and rain and 57-degree temperatures at 6:40 a.m. in February without thinking about tornadoes. At least, not if you grew up in Texas, where tornado watches and tornado warnings came every summer.
And now there’s a part of me that comes awake whenever thunderstorms build overhead. I watch the clouds build and race across the sky and feel the rain on my face and the electricity in the air, quavering on the waves of thunder-rumblings. And when lightning cracks open the sky, I am very much alive.
Today, work called, and I left the living winds to settle in a windowless newsroom, where maps of town printed on old yellow newsprint make a dark and dingy wallpaper against the yellowed ceiling tiles. Memories of other storms lingered.
I remember the winds that took my cousin’s playhouse, dumped it far away; I was between 3 and 5 — we left that house when I was 6. I remember the fear, that winds that took little houses would also take big ones. And I remember the awe that settled deep inside.
(This, apparently, also sparked my horror when I learned Great-Grandma Alley grew tomatoes in her garden. “Big tomatoes that knocked down houses?” I apparently asked, incredulous. She didn’t seem to be the kind of woman who sows destruction in her backyard kitchen garden.)
In Lubbock it was the dust storms, blowing red dirt in every crevice, resting trapped between storm windows and regular windows. I watched lightening stretch from heaven to earth, miles and miles away across the flat plains.
I fell in love there, in love with the sky and the awesome power of the storm. We left when I was 11; but I’m still a Texas Tech fan. I’ll love whatever grows under those huge skies.
Other storms followed — when rain fell like hail on the tin roof of the barn at the top of the hill, and we hurried with the milking for fear of the lightning. I remember the faint wail of a far-off tornado one Sunday morning, how I ran back down the muddy path, and didn’t learn until the next day that I’d been right, that it had passed by us.
One storm ripped the wading pool from the back porch, flew it over the house and across the wide yard, catching finally on the barbed wire fence on the other side. We hid in the sunk closet, all seven or eight of us then, alive with fear and excitement. The french doors blew open the way they always did, and I regretted missing it all.
I regret missing it all again today, though there’s nothing I can do. They’re warning of flash floods and tornado watches and the countless small creeks are already swollen with melting snow. Crews are digging dirt out of roadway drains, trying to keep the flooding to a minimum. I’m jealous of the photographers, sent out to capture the storm before deadline.
Maybe it will last until afternoon.