There is a certain power and majesty when the clouds gather and darken to slate, when lightning dances across their looming peaks and dips, when the wind stirs even the most stubborn branch and makes the world undulate to its whim, and when thunder rolls like battle drums off the horizon, ominous and promising. When the air smells of rain and the force of nature presses subtly against your skin, life seems a little more in the moment.
Storms are beautiful.
In that eerie light of sunset reflecting off the pitch clouds, a sense of rare readiness settles over the world. The skies darken and Zeus’s bolts provide the light, save for the spot hovering nearby, the spot that holds the gaze as nothing else in the storm can. A drop in the clouds that reflects the light differently, a spot that foretells doom: a wall cloud.
Storms are dangerous.
I do not know if this is just a regional phenomenon or something that is inside all people, but even despite the tragedies that recent storms have inflicted on the U.S., when the storms came last to where I live, my husband and I were out gazing at them as were many others if their pictures online are any indication. Sure the sirens went off and we ducked into the laundry room, but that was more for the kids’ sake and that little voice that cautions us to sense.
I remember being in high school with a phone pressed to my ear and my dear friend on the other end, both of us peeking out to catch a glimpse of the tornado the radio claimed raged nearby. When Hurricane Rita tore at our shores, again my husband and I were out, camera in hand, to capture its rim as it passed on the horizon.
What is our fascination with such forces?
Knowing these phenomena, tornados; hurricanes; fires; volcanoes; and other forces of nature, kill with careless ease and destroy lives and livelihoods, we are drawn to them. Is it the power that attracts us, for we cannot produce or control such sheer forces? Are we in awe of this power? Or do we hope to taste it through experience and observation? Is it simply enough to stand in its wake and realize how frail and fortunate we humans really are?
Is it the excitement of daring death? Foolish as this may be, we challenge death often enough whether it’s behind the wheel cutting someone off on the highway or grabbing the camera as we stroll for the storm shelter, frequently turning to look behind us. Death remains a mystery, and escaping it can be frightening, humbling, or exciting. For me, it is a little of them all.
Tornados frighten me. In fact, they are one of the more common elements of my nightmares, though I have never seen one in real life, only pictures and video. Imagining what those in Joplin, Oklahoma, and other tornado ravaged places went through is enough to make me shiver. Yet still, something inside drives me to stick my head out the door and look for funnels. I wish I could say that this was for the rational reason of knowing when I need to take cover, but that’s just an excuse or a minor motivation—the TV and sirens do a pretty good job of telling me when to take shelter. I know several others whose fascination gets in the way of their good sense when it comes to forces of nature.
So what do you think? Do you have that dangerous allure within you? Do you find the safest place when a storm comes, or do you go for that camera? What is it about humanity that you think makes us this way?
To all those who have suffered from recent storms, I send my prayers and condolences. If you wish to help, here’s a good place to start.