COMING HOME: Weather challenges us with its predictable unpredictability
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- Last week, at the end of a hot and humid Memorial Day weekend, a tornado touched down 5 miles south of Watford City.
My husband and I were on the highway making our way back west from a wedding in Minnesota, and I spent a majority of the trip commenting on how the weather seemed to change from winter to summer overnight.
Yesterday, wasn’t I wearing a beanie? Today, I dressed in flip-flops and tank tops, white skin reflecting the hot sun.
Predictably unpredictable is what I call this place. Just when you think you have a handle on it, just when you trust that maybe tomorrow will be the same 70-degree-and-sunny day as it was the day before, black storm clouds roll in over the horizon. You stand next to the screen door, hoping it doesn’t bring hail this time.
Just some rain. We always need a little rain around here.
I’ve always said nothing makes a human feel more human than the sound of thunder or the feel of a strong frozen wind whipping against your skin. Nothing makes the big things small and the small things big like the realization that, in this world, there are circumstances that humans cannot and will never be able to control.
And sometimes, no matter the advancements in technology, there are things we cannot predict.
But even if we could, the only change you can make is the change in our own path, to try with all your might to get out of the way, to cover your head and wait for it to pass you by.
This is what my dad taught us when we found ourselves out in the east pasture, miles from the barnyard, on the backs of our horses, thunder and lightning rolling in over us on the wave of a fast-moving black cloud and a darkening sky.
“Vulnerability” was a word I hadn’t yet learned to spell but quickly felt in my chest as he told my little sister and me to give our horses their heads, hold on and let them take us home.
And if we couldn’t out run it, we could trust him to find us the safest place out here without roofs, basements or man-made structures that can fool us into thinking we’re protected from the world.
To feel that helpless is the definition of humble. I can only imagine the fear pumping through the veins of the residents of a local camp outside my hometown felt when they spotted the large funnel touching down in a field and heading toward their windows.
And on the other side of that cloud we drove, my husband and I, toward home in the heavy rain, on the edge of a storm that was soaking the ground, filling the dams and feeding the thirsty trees of our ranch. We were unaware that a mere 30 or so miles away those dark clouds were dropping golf ball-sized hail, destroying trailers and sending people to the hospital.
In another time in the same place, the tornado would have touched down in a field outside of town, and we would have been talking about nothing but that we saw it coming. Today is a different story. It’s a story of luck or being blessed that they all made it out alive, and then, how we could have changed things, as if we had any other option but to prepare to react.
Close calls and phone calls and threatening skies. Sideways rain and wind that hurts our skin. Wind that can blow us away. Thunder and lightning and ice chunks falling from clouds, breaking things we’ve worked so hard to build. Hurting people we try so hard to protect.
Calm to chaos to calm again. And then the sun, a rainbow perhaps.
Because when it comes to the skies, we are not in control. When it comes to being human, we can only hold on. Hold on tight and take care.