There is a secret I need to tell you about the weather. A strange phenomenon. It seems that the weather doesn’t happen to me. I make it happen. At least that’s the way I experienced it when I was five and some years after that. Watching the clouds building and darkening morphing at my will from chicks to hens to elephants, from bright white to pink or black. Storms approaching across Fox Lake made my nerves positively tingle with joy. Or, perhaps I was pulling those storms toward me, attracting them. I exulted in the wind, the rain and especially the lightning. I ran in the warm rain til I was drenched. And the rainbow, I never felt a storm was complete unless I made a rainbow. I perfected drawing them.
My mood reflected the weather or did the weather reflect my mood? I loved the warm Fall days with golden leaves; the snow arrived just when I wanted it; the sun was bright and clear in February; Spring rains brought Green shock (this still happens to me).
When I was 14 we took a driving trip around Illinois, this was very rare as my Mother would say, “Where could we go that would be more beautiful than here?” She had a good point. Columbia Bay was beautiful, as lovely as the fertile green, lake spangled Mid-west gets, but I was curious about the world.
So we saw Starved Rock, Corn fields and Lincoln’s cabin. When we arrived home after dark we were greeted by my Uncle Al driving up the road in his Cadillac; he announced, “Your place is a wreck, it was hit by a tornado!” We went home and set up candles—the electricity would be out for a couple of days. In the morning I surveyed the damage, we had lost eleven full-grown Silver Maple trees. Amazingly, they were all uprooted! Large root-balls stood out from the sand, not balls actually but more like an asterisk shape. The trees had been tossed around like matchsticks.
Guilt, I felt guilt. I did this. I was responsible, that my absence had let this happen. If had been there this would not have occurred. I would have controlled it, calmed the storm, saved the trees.
Interestingly, the tree our resident Kingfisher used for diving, though old and hollow and right at the edge of the water survived, untouched. (It was the one I spent most of my time under looking into the water trying to see my future.)
A few years later, my Uncle Al bought a place on the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, he told me that about tying himself to a Palm tree so he could experience the winds of a Hurricane. Palm trees don’t break or get uprooted, but lose their fronds. He added that, unexpectedly, it was hard to breathe. This reminded me of Odysseus tying himself to the mast so he could hear the Sirens. And I felt a remarkable kinship with my Uncle after that.
I’m still not sure what sort of person I would be if I moved to another climate; weather and mood are still somehow entwined for me. I remember the black sky at mid day near Portland, Oregon, its contrast with bright white snow, the black trees…a stunningly different world, the mists rising in Machu Picchu to reveal mountains, volcanoes, the black sun drenched rocks of Galápagos. I imagine Mars, a landscape drenched in red with a black sky and tiny sun…
Many people complain about the weather, if they don’t like it they should ask me about it. Maybe I can fix it. (I wish I could control it magically as I did as a child.) Though now I don’t seem to have the time. And I appreciate it for itself and its expression of the dynamic system of Earth. One that makes the fantastic varieties of life possible. A sunny Fall day on Lake Michigan is a hurricane in the Carolinas, more magical than my imagination. I enjoy weather now as a surprise. Every day is different, a new delight.