I’m a realist by nature. What I see is usually what I get. But these recent summer storms create an alternative reality. They sneak up on us, pounce like a cat on a mouse. We go from bright sunlight to violent midnight skies, torrents of rain, damaging wind and hail, ear-splitting cracks of thunder and blinding flashes of lightning in a nanosecond; the world changes in the blink of an eye. And then just as quickly as it arrived, the anger of the storm passes, the sky clears, the wind abates, the temperature drops, the air freshens, and we’re back to our safe harbor. Only the overflowing gutters, the rivers running down the street, the puddles on the sidewalk, and all those downed branches are left to tell the story of the storm’s sudden fury.
Old-timers—some of my ‘From-Here’ friends—tell tall tales of storms that would go up and down the river as though God were playing with a yo-yo. I believe them because just when I think I’m out of harm’s way, a Chesapeake storm will suddenly decide to reverse course, come roaring back, and—bull’s-eye!—decide to sit right on top of my house. BOOM! The windows rattle, the whole house shakes. “Thought you were done with me, didn’t you? Hah! Watch this!” The bell rings for round two.
Life can be like that. We’ve all been through days when the storms just seem to drag on and on with no let up in sight. Will this never end? We go from bad to worse and beyond; the storm goes down the river, then decides to turn around and throw another haymaker at us. The heavens open back up, the rain lashes down, the thunder rolls, and bolts of lightning drop like daggers.
But eventually it’s over. There’s that blessed calm after the storm, like nothing ever happened; it was all just a figment of an overly vivid imagination. And sometimes if we’re lucky, right when we need it most, we see it: a sign that the worst is over. Noah saw a rainbow, but my sign was simpler, closer to home: a little yellow poplar leaf plastered to a rain-streaked window, the pastel hues of the neighbors’ roof out of focus in the background. It seemed to promise better days to come, a heaven-sent message that no matter the strength or terror of the deluge, yep, Annie, I promise you: the sun will come out tomorrow.
Thunderstorms thrive under certain conditions. Two of the most basic are moisture and rapidly rising warm air, both summer staples around these parts. I’m sorry to say things will only be getting worse in the years to come because as our planet continues to warm, severe weather patterns will only become more common. We must learn to endure. Or change.
For now, here’s my prayer: if you’re struggling through a storm—and I certainly hope you’re not!—save the image of that sodden yellow leaf that accompanies this Musing, and find its strength, its will to survive the storm. Remember Bob Marley’s reggae song, the one in which “every little thing will be alright?” Believe it so.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.