Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stormy Memories

Thunk! What the hell was that??

It sounded like the roof had just blown off the sun porch where I've been tapping away at my iMac for the past couple of hours. Heart thumping, I leaped over to the side window, which seemed closest to the the origin of the rude noise. There was a piece of two-by-four (which I recognized as part of the rear dormer of my attic) on the ground between my house and the neighbor's, and a chunk of one of my downspouts leaning against the other house.

In that moment I looked up and to the right and saw that it had begun to storm like crazy. I don't know how long it had been raining and blowing like this but I just noticed it for the first time. I've never seen sheets of heavy rain blow sideways as it was now doing. Thunder, lightning, treacherous sounding wind... it was really coming down!

Which is all rather odd, because earlier this morning I was recounting the story of the only hurricane I've ever witnessed to a friend in an email. It has been very rainy here in Chicago the last several days. Hot, muggy and rainy - yech. You know what they say: it's not the heat, it's the stupidity. Anyway, all this rain had got me thinking about the hurricane from my youth:

We were on a family vacation in Miami in August, 1964. We were staying in a beach front hotel right on the ocean. That night we heard that a hurricane (I just looked it up - it was Hurricane Cleo), was going to blow through.

I remember my father putting mattresses up against the window. I don't recall where we slept but I do remember the sounds, the darkness and the aftermath the following morning. The storm was surprisingly LOUD; I had been in thunderstorms before - who hasn't, unless you live in the desert. But this hurricane made wind and rain that was truly scary; I wasn't sure that our little room wasn't going to be whisked away, Wizard of Oz style.

The following morning was quite spooky. The sky was a unique shade of dark gray and the air smelled funny, as if things had been stirred up from the bottom of some cosmic pot. The beach was overrun with downed coconuts, a few of which my sister and I collected. I remember having a tough time opening those things, as we didn't know how to do it and I doubt we had the proper tools (whatever they may be - I still have no idea how to crack open a coconut).

The lobby of the hotel we were staying at was in a separate building and the roof had been partially blown off. I think I remember that a large chandelier had been downed by the wind but I may have made that up, memory being such a creative thing. But I do recall seeing a few empty soda bottles up in the rafters of the lobby roof. They must have been left there by the construction crew.

As long as I'm safely indoors I find the sound of a thunderstorm comforting. Even if it gets a little violent I feel a sense of security in the whirling wind and the rain pelting the roof . My bedroom is in the attic of my house so I really get to experience all the elements in close proximity. An occasional outburst of thunder will bring a quickening of the pulse but, for the most part, I love the rhythms tapped out on my roof when it pours.

Right now there's an overcast lull, but I'm hoping the storm will roar again later tonight.