• One Minnesota Writer

Standing in Storms

Hello from hot, humid Minnesota. As I’m writing this, I can see puffy clouds with dark undertones. They chug across the face of the sky, obscure the sun. Tree tops bend with gusts of wind, birds silhouetted above. Our next-door neighbor, a man somewhere near the age of 80, is outside moving pieces of the dead tree that fell over in back of his house. He moves slowly between his house and ours, past our kitchen window, sweat on his brow. He has not asked for help. The tree has been dead a long time; there are perfectly round holes woodpeckers drilled into its trunk. They’ve nested there several seasons. When I saw that the tree had fallen yesterday, my first thought was whether the woodpeckers were okay. My neighbor’s house was unharmed.

It’s been stormy the past few days. I don’t mind summer storms. On Sunday, when the first round moved into our area, I stood on the front step, much like I’ve done my whole life, and watched the sky. I thought about when both of my kids still lived at home. One kid liked being outside with me when it stormed. The other kid headed to the basement for safety, stressed that her mother might be in the driveway trying to get a better view of potential tornadoes. But this is what a Minnesotan does: watches the sky, breathes in the smell of rain, listens to the rising wind. This Minnesotan, anyway.

The first time I remember standing on the front step during a storm was with my brother, who was babysitting me. I was five. We lived in northeast Minneapolis. The tornado sirens went off while my parents were downtown picking up my mom’s dress for my brother’s quickly-approaching wedding. She wasn’t pleased when they came home, mid-storm, and found us outside. At least, that’s the way I remember it. Later, we learned there was severe damage all over nearby Fridley. We had been lucky.

The weather has always been one of the ways I stay in the moment. It takes my mind off other things that, like the weather, I cannot control. But standing outside while storms move in does give me a choice: watch what’s happening or hide inside.

Hiding inside might offer safety. It might offer solace. But it limits our experience and our ongoing education about how to recognize what’s coming.

I already have my spot staked out for that next storm. Hint: it's not in our basement.

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