Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stormy Weather

I was in the basement of my old parish church in Cincinnati, Ohio when the big wind storm, the fallout from Hurricane Ike, hit the Midwest on Sunday. I’m tempted to give that coincidence some meaning…old ways uprooted, the past turned over for examination, the danger of life’s flying debris. I was celebrating the 90th birthday of my best friend Colette’s father. The party was in the undercroft (basement) of St. Antoninus, the church I attended all through childhood. When I was a kid, the undercroft was the church. There were always plans to build the fancy new church on top, but that didn’t happen until many years after I left the area.

Because we were in the basement, we didn’t hear the storm at all. When we left the party at 3:00 in the afternoon, we were stunned. The wind was tearing at the pansies in the centerpiece I took home with me and uplifting the skirt of my dress. Fully grown trees were uprooted and lying on the ground across roads and driveways, cars and electrical wires. Smaller branches were scattered everywhere, green against the browned grass of late summer. What had we missed while eating ham sandwiches and laughing over pictures from the Whitaker family’s archives?

My own Dad had accompanied me to the party and the two of us got in the car and began to make our way back to his house, north of Cincy. We took a detour before leaving the area, though, and drove past our old home on Beechmeadow Lane. As is often the case when you visit childhood landmarks, everything looked tiny. The giant hill that my friends and I flew down on our bikes and huffed and puffed back up was a mild slope. The mansions on Ralph Avenue behind our house looked like regular houses, a little worse for the wear. Dad suggested we drive past Seton High School, the scene of many crimes by (and against) me and Colette. The area around the school looked pretty much the same, but the school itself must have had a very successful fund drive. The lawn where we practiced archery is taken up by a big new addition. I assume it is a new gym and cafeteria and something else besides.

I dropped Dad off successfully, though his house had no power. I got back in my car and headed up I-71 to Columbus. Counter-intuitively, everyone was speeding along at 80 mph. I guess the wind speeds were setting the pace. Plenty of trees were down along the sides of the highway, and corn shucks were flying through the air, Wizard of Oz-like. Yellowed sheaves swirled off the fields to the right and left of the road, flying past the windshield against a backdrop of bruise-colored sky. It was ominous, a melancholy reminder of the coming season.

No power at the apartment in Columbus either. Mary and Jon had some, though, so we had a farewell pizza party for Sarah at their house. We dropped Sarah off at the airport at 5:00 the next morning, with a hope and a kiss that her flights were all a go. Jack and I went back to bed and by the time we woke up, we had power again, as did Stauf’s. Whoopee! After cappuccinos and a bagel, I was back on the road towards home.

My quiet little farm, how I miss you when I’m gone. I took a walk to survey the damage. It was much less intense here, but there was evidence of the storm. The gnome homes were swept away—yikes, poor gnomes!—and lots of branches were down in the yard around the cabin and along the woods trail. There were a few trees, tall skinny ones that were uprooted or snapped off near the base, lying across the trail. And walnuts everywhere! I thought about how the settlers might have appreciated that effect of the storm. I twisted my ankle on one yesterday while walking through the yard, so I’ll be picking them up today. I’m going to try cracking them open. I hear it is a lot of work, but worth it for the freshest walnuts you’ll ever taste.

I found this stick while on my walk.
You can look at it this way:
And this way: The camera doesn't quite capture the lovely mauve color of the underside of the fungus. It is quietly beautiful—another small gift from a big storm.

So, we’re safe out here in the country. Many of my friends and family are still without power in Columbus. And of course, the people in Texas are suffering greatly. After seeing the destruction from the aftermath of Ike, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be hit by it directly. I only hope that the victims of the storm will find small gifts somewhere, left unexpectedly in their path.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a lovely piece--textured and reflective! I do believe you've found your voice and then some, Megala.