Thursday, May 11, 2006

Who Has Seen The Wind?

Two nights ago, a tornado blew through my county and left three people dead. I never heard a thing. This is surprising because I wake up at the sound of wind. I monitor the color of the sky, when I can see it. When I can't, running ticker-tape warnings underneath a regularly scheduled program will send chills down my spine. Anyone who knows me well, knows I am terrified of tornadoes.

I grew up in a generation enamored with The Wizard of Oz. The scene with the farmhouse spinning out of control is as vivid now as the first time I watched it and felt Dorothy's horror. I also spent a lot of time in the Midwest while growing up. Springtime brought nightly siren alerts in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas as my family scrambled into the communal basement shared by eight families on Grant Avenue. I've seen the sky turn that sickening green a dozen times and I still head for the nearest closet or culvert when it appears.

But fear of devastation landing on my head was not just in the physical realm. For fifteen years I was plagued with nightmares of tornadoes chasing me down. Sometimes they overtook me, lifted me up, and deposited me in an unknown place. Sometimes I outran them. Several times I confronted them in my dreams and defied them - I rebuked them. Those dreams were so vivid that twenty years later I can still recall them. More importantly, I began to notice a pattern. I would dream about a tornado and then, within months, my life would drastically change. A new direction. A move. The loss of a loved one. A divorce. An up-ending of my life that was as catastrophic as if my house had been leveled. Soon I began to fear the dreams more than I feared tornadoes.

In the eighties the dreams came fast and furious. By the end of 1990, my only child died. Six months later I divorced an already failing marriage. In that time, I ceased being a mother and a wife. I moved and got a job. I dropped out of grad school. I changed churches and made new friends who knew nothing about my tumultuous and painful past. I entered a desert of doubt and disbelief. Like Jacob, I wrestled and wandered before I returned. The last dream I remember, I did not run, I did not rebuke it, I stood still when the tornado approached and I held out my arms.

I crawled out of the culvert of my fears and accepted my past. I quit the sassy single scene and owned up to my brokenness. I'm sure I didn't seem as hip and cute as I wanted, but my life continued to change and evolve. In fact, it got crazier. I quit my job and spent three years teaching in China and then married a Chinese man. When we returned to the states, I gave birth to two babies. Life is as hard as it has ever been except I do not fear it. The winds still erode what I try to build, but I accept it and I remember, I'm building with rock.

(Thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce for the picture titled: Tornado near the end of its life.)


Allison said...

It's funny how beautiful that tornado looks. And how lovely your writing about it is. While it makes me want more, it also reminds me of some favorite lines from Kierkegaard:
A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music... and then people crowd about the poet and say to him: "Sing for us soon again;" that is as much as to say. "May new sufferings torment your soul."

I know what it took to make that music.

Allison said...
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Anonymous said...

It's sometimes unbelievable how God gives us the words we need to hear, even from strangers. I was looking for something else when I stumbled upon your blog, and the tornado photo sucked me into the post.

I too, had tornado nightmares most my life (raised in Odessa), but in my dreams I was always finding safe places for my sisters to hide, then waking in terror right before the tornado hit. I was surprised to have the nightmare just a few months ago after so many years...

A divorce 4 years ago, I put my heart and soul into my business and refused to even consider that God wasn't in it with me, after all- didn't He put the desire in my heart? I now face financial ruin, but I get to keep the beautiful home He gave me, and my precious wiener dogs bring me joy every day. I am blessed.

The days and weeks go by so fast now, I couldn't say if my last tornado dream was coinsided with the wonderful gift God gave me. When I had done all I could do, when there was no stone left uncovered and I had to call my work finished, God dropped my destiny in my lap, and challenge tailor made for me, so exciting I can hardly stop "working".

In the back of my mind, a critical voice asks "but will it make any money?" All I've ever asked from life is to have security, and it has alluded me for 50 years. Life has never been harder, or has it? All I know is I now have no fear.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be in a situation where there are little one's that depend on you. Would I still be so fearless? Uplifted prayers for Karen and the Luo family - you mighty woman of valor!