Edge of the Earth Rd. Journal
The Storm
June 4, 2001
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"I am no scientist.  I explore the neighborhood."

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
    The storm came through last week as if it were a timely reminder, a small note pasted on the usually clear horizon, a conjunction in the middle of our conversation with each other, a forceful explanation of who is really in charge.

     Here at Edge of the Earth Rd., it hit shortly after 3:30 a.m.  I know this not because I possess some innate sense of timing for the pertinent, but rather because when it started, Sadie, my year-old Black Lab who sleeps with me, sat bolt upright in the bed.  The thunderclaps were deafening and the lightning was fluorescent in its meterological display.  The rain was coming down in wind-driven sheets on the lawn.  Then there was, of course, the hail.  Great storm.  Absolutely loved it.

     It was not Sadie who actually awakened me.  What happened was, at the first lightning strike, the fan in the window went off and the "touch-sensitive" lamp next to the bed came on.  Like Sadie, I sat straight up.  My head was not very clear so my first thoughts were, "Where am I?" followed quickly by the most crucial question of all:  "Who am I?"  At that time of the morning, I had absolutely no idea of the answer to either question.

     Slowly, the reality of the situation settled in on me.  As the storm raged outside, Sadie took a reclining but perpendicular position on the bed, peering out the window intently.  I turned off the light and sprawled across the bed next to her.  Together we watched the show.

     Sadie's interest continued for quite some time.  I was most interested in her interest.  It was the first storm she had ever witnessed and I felt her reaction was well worth noting.  Five minutes into the storm's well-choreographed production, Sadie rose, stretched, and slinked off the bed and then under it.  I thought of joining her but instead continued to watch.  The Cottonwoods bent pricipitously and turned loose of non-consequential, but still rather substantial limbs.  They rolled across the lawn like tumbleweeds crossing a West Texas highway.  The Elm, Sumac, and Catalpa tree limbs whipped back and forth in concert with the wind's orchestration.  Hail pounded the eaves of the house and fell to the ground like rolled dice.  The water in the yard quickly began to accumulate.  We may have been 2.89 inches behind average in our annual rainfall, but we caught up fast.... alarmingly fast.

     My oldest son, Chris, graduated OU in '92.  He chased storms during his whole career at OU though his degree was in Zoology.  It is difficult to explain about our appreciation of violent weather to people who do not see in Oklahoma storms the subtle hand of reminder, rather than the heavy hand of nature's fickleness.  If a person who lives in Oklahoma goes to bed at night believing what the effervescent weatherperson told them the weather would be the next day, well, he just will not get it.  There are way too many variables to be able to accurate forecast the weather.  Weather folk take as many variables as they can into consideration, but in the long run it is nothing more than an educated guess, a guess most often proven wrong.

   That is the thing about nature.  Once you think you get a hold on it, it turns around and throws something else at you to confuse the issue.  Chris now attends school at the University of California at Davis, CA.  He misses many things about Oklahoma, but especially the storms.  Out there, they do not have lightning, thunder, tornadoes, or hail.  They only get the minor ravages like mudslides, earthquakes, and rolling blackouts.  During an especially violent thunderstorm, my wife has been known to call him up and hold the phone out to the storm so he can hear it.  Mothers are like that.

     The storm passed through without great mishap to home or hearth, and the next morning I was out early picking up small tree limbs and throwing them on the brush pile.  The Catalpa trees had turned loose their blooms.  There were so many on the ground it looked as if we were about to be visited by distinguished guests on flower-strewn paths.

     The air was clearer and temperature cool enough to require a sweater.  The birds came to the feeders only to find them emptied by the wind and torrential rain.  I quickly filled them and the routine of everyday life began to return.

     So far, we have seen hatched Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downey Woodpecker, and a single Brown-headed Cowbird through the goodheartedness of a pair of unsuspecting E. Phoebes.  The latter have now laid a new clutch of eggs in a new nest.  Hopefully it will be a more pure race that appears in a few days.  A few weeks ago I found a small insect shell that resembled a tiny Quonset hut.  Later that morning the hatchlings sprang forth.  Hundreds of Praying Mantises covered the antique wash-pot we had set on the porch hutch.  Their bodies were as fragile as wisps of smoke, but they possessed all the form of adults with large black eyes, front legs bent in supplication, and that marvelous head structure seemingly capable of twisting past a full circle.  My wife carried the wash-pot to the edge of the woods and watched as they all jumped into the vegetation, quite surprised at not having to urge them along.  The literature says about 200 per shell.  Not many of them will make it though.  Not because of adverse circumstances but rather, because they have the nasty habit of eating each other.

     Three spiders have appeared but I have been unable to identify any of them.  Definitely need to get a good spider book.  Today, one egg in one nest hatched and though difficult to distinguish, there are at least a hundred tiny spider "spots" surrounding the benevolent female.

     All this is what I like about storms.  They come through, ravage the environment, clear the air, and move on.  In their wake is left nature's litter of leaf and limb and, if we would all admit it, a bit of respect from us humans who walk upright but often cringe and cower at nature's ferocity.  At least that is the way we see it here at Edge of the Earth Rd.

(c) Copyrighted by Phil Floyd 2002
The Storm