Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Storms, tornadoes, and a really excellent fantasy book

It’s spring in Tornado Alley. Two nights ago we stood on our front porch teaching our baby about hail and marveling at a peal of distant thunder that extended for a seemingly impossible amount of time, and then doubled and even tripled its duration still after that. Yesterday morning we heard that a tornado had ravaged Joplin, MO, and we wondered if that distant and impossibly long thunder had really been thunder after all.

Last night we again stood on our front porch and watched a deluge wash over our land. Before the storm got bad enough to thoroughly jumble our satellite signal, wunderground.com said there was a tornado watch. Then the storm intensified and the internet died.


(We also unplugged the computers, Mom.)

It is easy for those of us lucky enough to live in first-world countries to take shelter for granted. Houses, to us, are havens, party places, do-not-disturb tranquility zones, or status symbols. It’s not often that we remember that houses are primarily shelters.

I’m reading The Wheel of Time, a fantasy series on the covers of which the author’s name is as large as the title. Believe me, this surprises me as much as it should surprise those of you who know me in person. It’s fabulous. It comes highly recommended by this hypercritical English major. If you’re looking for imagination and excitement unsullied by copious amounts of erudition and deconstructive theory, but with enjoyable and sometimes even beautiful prose, you will definitely find it here. Perfect for snuggling in an armchair and devouring while a thunderstorm rages.

Anyway, there is a race of people, the Aiel, in these books who refer to houses as “roofs.” They have blessings upon entering a roof and refer to the mistress of the house as the “Roofmistress.” Watching these storms during these past two days has made this concept very concrete for me. Our houses are, first and foremost, roofs under which we can shelter from the elements in safety and comfort. In ordinary circumstances I can easily find myself lamenting that a house is not big enough, does not have enough storage space, is not arranged correctly, or has bad insulation. I can do this because I see my house as an extension of myself – the place where my stuff is, where I spend my time, and where my energy permeates the possessions and even the very walls. Listening to the storm rage about me, I realized that tonight, I would be just as happy to be dry in a cave. The important thing is the roof.

And then I thought of what happened to Joplin, and all the towns that have been torn apart by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, and I realized that even though a house seems so permanent, so concrete and owned, even a house is not always sufficient shelter.

We couldn’t even find out if anything similar was happening right then. What happens when your place of safety is turned to matchsticks by a mile-wide tornado?

I sat in my home and listened to the rain pounding on the metal roof and against the windows and thought of how small a space is confined by these walls and protected by this roof. I prayed that it would stay safe and that Mother Nature wouldn’t feel the need to let my family know that she is stronger than our concrete and steel.

I also am still praying that the garden survive all this rain. It would be a small inconvenience compared to the devastation of losing one’s house, but I would really appreciate my plants not being wiped out.

p.s.: I apologize for the awkward formatting of the Amazon links. I wanted them in a neat straight-across line under the mini-review, but they haven't progressed to click-and-drag user friendliness and I really don't know how else to move elements around. I stopped being tech-savvy when the iPod came out and I didn't get one.

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