Storms


By Don Jackson, August 2011
Former host of one of Canada's most popular radio shows spanning three decades.
Author, broadcaster, storyteller.

Never trust her at any time, when the calm sea shows her false alluring smile.
Lucretius

That is especially true when a storm can come up on you unexpectedly.

The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm ... Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.
Ray Bradbury

We need the rains for our crops, gardens and lawns to survive through the sometimes brutal heat of summer. If it's been a particularly long dry spell, the rain that will eventually come will be torrential, the lightning dangerous and the thunder deafening.  As intense as these storms are, they cannot hold a candle to what roams the Atlantic in high summer. When the ocean temperature is just right, the storms that come out of Africa can build to a fury out in the open waters. There is nothing that can stand in their way, except for a few islands and the edge of a continent. I've heard it said that some of these thunderstorms can contain the energy of an atomic bomb.  You might want to consider the power in a category one hurricane and that which is produced in a category 5.

Have you ever been caught in a hurricane or a tropical storm? I was at a resort in the Caribbean some years back. The first few days were glorious with tropical heat by day and warm, sultry breezes off the sea at night. The stray dogs that wandered onto the property began acting strangely. One dog raised its snout to sniff the incoming ocean breeze and whimpered. Its tail was between its legs as it scurried for the cover of the lush gardens. By midweek, we had heard the news that a hurricane had this island directly in its sights. For the next few days, the leading edge of the storm began to make its way across the sea stirring up high waves and afternoon downpours. By the time we were to leave, the storm was right on the island's doorstep. My plane was the last one to get off the runway before the hurricane smashed into the island. As we took off, we could see the leading edge of the storm in the distance. The plane rocked violently as it struggled to gain altitude. We watched the violence out the windows and knew the island had an appointment with fate, and there was nothing to be done for the inhabitants but to ride it out. We heard later that the resort we had been staying at had suffered a lot of damage. It's amazing how a storm like this can be carried in on the coat-tails of a gentle sea breeze.

As in the case of earthquakes, there are many animals that can sense a storm coming. Peacocks will utter harsh cries as the storm builds strength on the horizon. Cattle will kneel on the ground while waiting for the rains to begin. Some birds overhead will begin to fly erratically as they search for the shelter promised by a nearby tree. Before any kind of storm arrives, there are certain signs that something is on the move. Wild life can sense it and if you are keen to these subtle changes you can also feel it, too. Not only is there a calm after a storm, but there is also a period of calm before it arrives.

Down the stream of life together
We are sailing side by side,
Hoping some bright day to anchor
Safe beyond the surging tide.
Today our sky is cloudless,
But the night may clouds unfold;
But, though storms may gather round us,
Will you love me when I'm old?
An anonymous writer in the 1936 Doubleday collection, 'Best Loved Poems Of The American People'

I believe there is music in storms. The first few notes are almost silent as the winds pick up and gently stir the leaves in the trees. Then, a momentary lull before the crash of the cymbals and bass drum. The sky is pierced by lightning and the thunder rolls off into the distance like a drum roll. The rain increases in intensity and beats the top of our vehicles, the road surface, sidewalks and our thirsty lawns. A few more bolts and peals of thunder as if to announce the end of the music. A gentle rain follows as the music begins to fade. It flows down the roof and into drainpipes, taps a gentle rhythm on a windowpane and the petals and leaves of the rosebush as the music comes to an end.

I live my life in widening rings which spread over earth and sky,
I may not ever complete the last one, but that is what I will try.
I circle around God's primordial tower, and I circle ten thousand years long;
And I still don't know if I'm a falcon, a storm, or an unfinished song.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Don Jackson, August 2012


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