Tornado Warning

My Grandma said dark clouds hold wind.  Some of those clouds blew in from the west. Then everything got real still.

The air held its breath. Birds found a place to settle in trees, held fast, and quieted. Crickets and frogs stopped singing and listened instead.

The air shifted to cool and heavy. Wind picked up from the southwest, and the sky turned greenish–gray.   That’s what I remember about the afternoon. It was eerily quiet, just before the wind really picked up.

I opened the front door and looked toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. Black clouds moved east, coming for the house. Usually, clouds close in slowly, inching over the mountains and through the sky, covering the clear sky and filling the empty space.  They form a line that doesn’t cross the treetops until all of the clouds are together in formation, a unified front.

This time they rolled in faster, and with a force.  It was like they were in a hurry to create battle, and needed to sneak up on everyone.

“Watch out for those dark clouds,” I heard my Grandma say. “Pay attention. If they start to reach for the ground with little fingers, get down low, cover your head,” she warned.

I gathered the children.  Our basement is a hole under the house, more like a root cellar than a family room. The door faces our vegetable garden. There’s one tiny, dingy window that puts the yard at eye level.

The boys wrestled our scratching, ball of fur and claws called a cat, and held him tight as we ran through the downpour.   We pushed the door open and entered the musty, damp space.  A grave came to mind.

When my life is in turmoil, I dream of tornadoes—I can’t find my children or get to the basement in time. Just as my last fingertip grip is pulled away by the wind, I wake to a fast heartbeat in my ears.

On that day, I’d done everything right—gotten us all down low and the drum of my heart beat loudly in my ears.

The boys jumped up and down, squealing with excitement, opening the door to peek out.

“Close that door,” I yelled.

The door slammed shut and the children used their sleeves to wipe the dirt off the window. We had our backs to the weather outside, it was swirling around from the west and the basement faces east. With an increase in wind, hail arrived. It hit the ground and bounced, nickel size pieces of falling ice from the sky, bright white in the green grass of spring.

“It looks like popcorn,” one of the boys said.

The sky turned late-evening dark and I kept waiting for the sound of a freight train.  We didn’t hear it, but the rain fell in curtains across the yard.  We couldn’t see the clothesline.

Then, as suddenly as it came, the clouds lifted and the sky lightened.  The boys ran out and began throwing pieces of hail at each other, ducking and laughing, splashing barefoot through the puddles in the yard.

I took a deep breath, cradling the cat as I stepped out of the basement, and  lifted my eyes to the sky in search of a rainbow.

Tornado Warning & Images © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. Read more of M Dawn’s work in the Now, click her tag.

2 Responses to “Tornado Warning”
  1. curly says:

    Awesome sky photos. Tense writing. How tender we find ourselves, when at the random mercy of powerful weather events.

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