Here in Oklahoma, we have a sort of torrid love affair with the sky. You probably can’t understand it until you’ve lived here.
Days of amazing blue with perfect clouds or evenings with awe-striking sunsets counterbalance what the sky sometimes brings. In the winter, it’s snow and ice that halts school and work days. In the summer, it’s weeks of unbelievable heat waves. In the fall, it’s shorter days and fast-fading foliage color.
And in the spring, it’s tornadoes.
Spring is the time when the atmosphere buzzes. The wide skies go dark, turn green, clouds swirl. You can get too familiar with the heaviness, the fear.
Like most things we can’t control, we try as hard as we can to master it in any way possible. Radars, full of every spectrum of color imaginable, sweep storms across the map. Advanced computer models predict collisions of cold fronts and warm air masses down to the hour.
All these things bring us to some sort of safety. All so we’ll be prepared for when that day comes.
Monday was one of those days. We’d seen the risks, we saw the forecasts, like many countless “weather aware” days before.
But nothing really can prepare you for it: the day the tornado drops out of the sky, morphs into a monster and takes everything you own.
At my office, we all stood huddled around the live stream of the local news. We heard the panic and felt it, too, when we saw the thing form from the helicopter video. We watched it grow, violently, from a thin spiraling column of air to a mile-wide wedge of destruction. The amount of debris in the air was so huge it hid the actual tornado on the radar.
It was close, too close, And it was bad, very bad.
Everyone knew it and we were quiet.
It was heading through places we all know. People we know live there.
And while it was demolishing everything in its path, I was quickly scanning the map. Was it headed north for my house?
The reality came in quickly. And you’re faced with the memories of all the inconvenient, obligatory school drills, all the noisy sirens you ignored, all the times when your county went red with a tornado warning on the map.
On that day, they’re the only tangible things you have to warn and protect you from the sky. It’s a wild animal that’s turned on you. The only way to fight back is by defiantly holding on, by riding out the heart-pounding duration of the ordeal.
And then it’s all over. The sun comes out, the sky clears, just as brutally forgetful as it was destructive.
These last two months have been difficult for several reasons now. Nothing can prepare you for the uncontrollable, unpreventable, grief-painted events in life. You’re faced with the circumstances that stomp out all your preparations, your safe guards, the comfort of your routines.
But it’s these events that bring the most perspective, a clearer vision of what’s important.
The larger, irreplaceable people and things are first to come in focus. Family. Friends. Faith. Health. Happiness.
They’re the fuel that keeps you moving beyond the place where you had to take shelter. You can’t stay there forever.
This perspective also brings to light the small things, too: the way your mailbox hangs with a slight lean to the right, the blooms of your rose bushes in the backyard, the way lamplight falls across your living room floor in the evenings.
These are small comforts we too easily take for granted, the pieces of the lives we’ve built, day after day, year after year.
So here’s to hugging the ones you love, tightly. Here’s to counting blessings, one by one. And here’s to many more brilliant sunsets and beautiful blue-sky days ahead.