It's not that I don't pay attention to the weather. I do. I pay very close attention to the weather. At least my body does.
When the barometric pressure drops, the headaches come. When the humidity rises, the hair expands. As soon as the flowers and trees and grasses begin to bud and shoot their pollen out into the air like invisible fireworks, the breath becomes labored. And in the right combination of cold and wet, the right knee reminds me of green grass and white lines and speeding soccer balls and the feeling of invincibility.
No, it's not that I don't pay attention to the weather. It's just that I don't pay attention to the weather forecast, an aversion that I suspect comes from all those years living in a house with a farmer. A house where conversation about the weather wasn’t something in which you engaged to pass the time and fill the spaces, but something that surrounded you, lingered on your skin, left you more often than not anxious and tender. A house where unseasonable freeze and wind chill factor, serious drought and record high were not vocabulary words, but dangerous interlopers, evil marauders, malevolent trespassers.
Weather forecasts, it didn’t take me long to learn, could narrow my father’s eyes, furrow his brow, hunch his shoulders. Weather forecasts could make him quieter than usual, send him out into the middle of the field, alone, to walk and think and pray. Weather forecasts offered information which might or might not be correct and about which I could do absolutely nothing.
So I stopped paying attention. And the storm that blew up Sunday night, the storm that Grannie would call a badstorm, a one word moniker carrying the connotation of imminent destruction and danger, caught me completely off-guard.
Rain earlier in the day had come and gone, leaving the road still walkable. Dave, the new dog, and I had left footprints in the damp dirt and breathed cooler air. We’d noticed that the cotton seemed to be standing a little straighter and the grass seemed to be a little greener. We’d hardly broken a sweat. There was nothing to indicate that the evening would be anything other than quiet and calm. Nothing except, apparently, a severe weather warning or some such thing that had been issued by the National Weather Service or some such agency.
I sat on the couch and listened to the wind grow louder and wilder. It rattled the window screens and keened through the chimney like a banshee. The rain flew across the yard in near-horizontal sheets, hard wet arrows puncturing the ground and chopping at the roots of anything growing. There hadn’t been time to turn down the rocking chairs and I listened for the sound of one or more being thrown into the shrubs.
And then the power went out.
Three hours in the dark can leave a person with plenty of time to consider things. Like whether it makes any difference if you know that a storm is headed your way.
In this case it probably wouldn’t have. Other than securing the rocking chairs, there’s not much I would have done if I’d been watching television and recognized in that ubiquitous floating line of information at the bottom of the screen the announcement that included words that had something to do with me.
On the other hand, there are different kinds of storms and different kinds of warnings, different ways of forecasting torrential emotional rains or issuing psychological travel advisories. In those situations, it is easy to surmise – lying in the dark, listening to the wind screeching around the corners of the house and giving it a scary face –, that advance notice would be a good thing. That staying inside, staying at home, staying safe is the better choice.
What I know, though, from all the times I’ve been caught without an umbrella is that the storm always passes, I won’t get blown away, and the rain on my face reminds me I am alive. I don’t need a forecast to tell me that.