Simmering Storms

A tropical storm is simmering in the Caribbean Ocean, and its forecast track edges westward then eastward but always northward, where I sit at my keyboard.

The thought of a hurricane electrifies my mood. On one hand, it’s exciting to anticipate the power that can blow down an oak tree with a girth larger than I can wrap my arms around. The noise in the upper atmosphere sounds like a thousand jets racing overhead. Rain pummels the windows in waves, like sprays of hail, rattattattat, rattattattat, rattattattat.

On the other hand, as a storm’s approach is more certain, the reality of untethered power sends a chill, not a thrill skittering across my skin. A tree might come through the roof. At the least, losing power is almost guaranteed and water cut-off a strong possibility. No lights, no AC, no stove, can’t open the refrigerator, can’t flush the toilettes, can’t wash dishes or take a shower. 

Fill the tub with water, turn the air conditioner and the refrigerator thermostats as far as their knobs twist, run the dishwasher, wash the clothes, charge phones and computer. Check, check, need to do that, do that last minute, done. Oh, does the flashlight have working batteries?

Lower barometric pressure comes with storms. My wrists, fingers, shoulders and hips complain like I’ve been in a car wreck. Pushing up from a chair, rolling over in bed, bringing down a bowl don’t feel routine. My joints grandstand.

Anticipating a storm,  I want it to accelerate, to get here, but when it’s within arm’s length, I want to push it away. When the birth of our third son approached, the July heat and lumbering bulk of my torso made me impatient to deliver, but when the hurricane of pain engulfed me, I backtracked. I don’t want to do this. I’ll do it tomorrow.

The end-game of Mother’s cancer was a given, like being 41 weeks pregnant. The waiting twisted me like a wrung towel. It was tiring and left me creased and deflated. When the time came, though, I clung to her, not wanting her to go. Please don’t go.

Our maple tree went down in the last hurricane, along with ten other trees in our yard. Arborists advised we replant with river birches. Trees that survive hurricanes best, are flexible trees, trees that bend and give in to the wind instead of resisting. Buildings that withstand earthquakes have deep foundations and designs that allow shifting and movement to adjust to the ground’s movement.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) 

James tells us to stay under the pressure and not try to wriggle out of it. Bend to the molding hands of God, so that we can gain what is lacking. Allow perseverance to build us, to enlarge our character, perhaps grow our compassion and understanding, our patience with others, to correct our perspective.

For whatever reason God allows storms to blow, I exhale to release tenseness from my spirit. I coach myself to trust Him who uses inevitable storms to bring about growth and completion, instead of wasting the pain and throwing away purpose.

We lost the maple, but grandfather oak only lost limbs. Some limbs didn’t matter as much as I thought they would, but losing one limb devastated the tree. It began dying from the inside out. Behind the bark’s covering where we couldn’t see, a cavity grew where squirrels and wrens frequented.

The old oak had supported an elaborate tree house, complete with swinging bridge connected to a companion tree. Later, it bore one end of a hammock, where I lay, watching the play of sunlight through leaves, feeling heat, then cool on my face in the syncopated rhythm of their dance, like emotions and music, crescendoing and quieting.

Another storm approached, forcing clarity.

The oak couldn’t support all the branches in the coming storm, and some had to go. Foliage catches wind and can topple a tree. We sacrificed a few unnecessary branches for the tree’s overall integrity. We didn’t miss them. I can’t envision now where they were.

The pruning invigorated the tree. The old barker sent out new shoots, healthy green where dull dark growth had been. We rehung the hammock and enjoyed the shade after sweating through yard work.

Clouds burble and darken on the horizon. I don’t know if they will coalesce into a shrieking storm or not, but I weigh the possibility. My reaction will determine how well I survive. I cannot pull the tumult towards me to force it past, or push it back with denial or rebellion.

If the blast comes, I’ll have to go with the flow, not fight it. The trivial will jet away, clarifying what is valuable. If I’m wise, just the threat will move me to let go of imagined control and trust the Lord of storms.

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