The storm is slowly rolling in around me, rain drops sprinkling my keyboard as I write. The wind is teasing, a few wisps of my hair caught in a breeze that is toying with the pages of my journal next to me. Summer rain storms make me think of my childhood for some reason, the joy of not knowing what the future held.
I used to watch the clouds come in from my bedroom window in North Carolina. The dogwood tree’s limbs would start to sway, and the smell of fresh grass and clover would rush in as I slid open the wooden window frame. I loved that smell– crisp and clean and adventurous. There was something magical about the way the sky darkened in the brightest part of the year, the contrast calling to something in me. A summer storm could bring much needed water, or it could bring danger and devastation. That was the beauty of it I think- knowing that something so powerful could bring both life and destruction.
Most of the time for me the storms brought peace. The rain would slide over our backyard, washing away the previous day’s adventure and preparing it for a new one. Even in the hottest summers it was always green in our Carolina home, the gentle slopes covered in bright grass and the apple tree in lush bloom. The best storms were just before dusk, when the temperature would drop and the taste of sweet honeysuckle was in the air. I’d watch the lightning streak across the sky, feel the rumble reverberate through the house. Fear and anticipation, like you were curling up with a good book and didn’t know what would happen next. How small the storms made you feel, especially when the thunder echoed and echoed. It was a comfort to think “I am not the only one,” as the rain pelted your roof.
I hated when I was alone for the storms. My mother often worked until six or seven in the evening, and as an only child I was alone most afternoons. Being alone in the storm meant responsibility- bring the dog in the basement, make sure the cat could get in the back porch. It was frightening to think I had to make everything safe and right when I was so afraid. When my mother was home, everything was different. Sometimes, we’d sit on the porch and watch the rain get closer. Chatter on about insignificant things. Those were the times I loved most- times when she and I didn’t fight. I can still feel that same pull to lean against her as I write this. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about in those moments, a young daughter and her mother who were so alike and yet so deeply different. Those memories are a blur to me now, but I remember the calmness I felt on those red brick steps.
Dorothy was swept up in one of those monster summer storms, thrown into a world that she didn’t know. She had a grand and dangerous adventure, finding in the end that there was truly “no place like home.” She got to go back to Kansas, to take all the lessons she learned about the meaning of home and make good on them. I always wanted to experience one of those storybook adventures, the fairy tale life. What we as kids never seemed to grasp was that it’s the “in between” of the story that makes the ending so worthwhile. It’s the fear and the tragedy, the hardship and the tough decisions that give meaning to the journey. If Dorothy hadn’t had to battle through so much, if she hadn’t had to help her friends see their own worth, and if she hadn’t lost all that she knew, would she have ever treasured Kansas the same way?
I think that’s why I love these storms now, as an adult who has seen and experienced so much loss. They take me back to a simpler time when I had no idea that so much could change in such a short amount. I remember the child’s dreams I had of the future, the excitement that a storm could bring with it’s cooling raindrops and terrifying lightning. I didn’t know then that the storms of life could make you so grateful for the home you had. That rains can cleanse as well as drown, and that the breeze that turns into a wind can knock you down as surely as they can help you fly. Summer storms help me remember that I made it through, that I’ll see the sun again after it clears. They make me grateful for everything that I’ve been through and hope that one day my own daughter will sit with me on the steps and watch a storm roll in.
Most of all, these summer storms make me feel small in the best way. The rain washes over us all at some point, the cleansing tears of life. Lightning will strike and it will hurt. The winds will change our direction. It would be easy to fear the storms, the run from their power. But how much more beautiful is our small piece of the world after the rains cleanse the dirt from our paths, wash away the grime and dirt? How green are our lawns in a drought after the storm, how deeply do we breathe in the fragrance of life renewed? We are not the only ones to get caught in a storm, and we are surely not the only ones who will see the sun again.
The thunder is louder now, the summer storm closing in. Rain drops are falling faster, and it’s time for me to pack up my laptop and my worn leather journal and head inside. My windows are up though, open as long as they can be. I swear I can smell a Carolina dogwood on the breeze and fresh sun-warmed clover in it’s wake…