Shout out to Mother Nature
Editors note: Anthony’s taking the week off, so were re-running this column from 2008.
I love storms, when Mother Nature is kicking ass and taking names. I was born in the Midwest and spent my first half-century there, and I’ve been in some fairly exciting weather. No Hurricanes, but I’ve been close to several tornadoes.
One of the things I miss most about living in the Midwest is the sudden appearance of a summer storm, with thunder and lightning and big wind. I lived for a while in a high-rise apartment in Chicago, and the best thing about it, other than the cuties by the pool, was being able to watch a thunderstorm coming in off the prairie, apparently lighting up cars and buildings as it moved across the city headed for me.
I especially like storms that knock out electric power. First, a lack of electricity tends to be accompanied by quiet, which is good. And when the power’s out, we pretty much have to listen to the storm, which can be as engaging as any music. The silence that follows a snowstorm is sublime.
In the blizzard of ’67 in Chicago, I spent the night on a bus headed home, and we never got more than a couple of miles from downtown. That was no fun, but the miles I walked the next day to complete my commute were quite pleasant, with no cars or buses, just walkers and the occasional child being towed on a sled. The South Side wasn’t that quiet again until the blizzard of ’79.
A storm that interrupts electricity is also likely to disrupt street traffic, and the combination is good for air quality and my peace of mind, which is most of what I care about these days. After the initial annoyance of nothing happening when I flip a switch and having to do without electronic entertainment, I begin to notice and enjoy how my horizon shrinks back from halfway around the world on some Godforsaken website to maybe the back fence. Many, many blizzards in the Midwest eventually helped reveal to me the wisdom of attending to what’s right here on the bookshelf, thawing in the refrigerator, simmering on the stove, waiting in the next room.
Particularly sweet was the exquisite anticipation of being snowed in, when doing nothing would be all anyone expected of me. Making sure I had the necessities so I wouldn’t have to go out again, finding a treat to share with my family, picking a movie we could all stand and that we might actually like, wading through the snow from the garage and not caring about getting snow on my pants because I’d soon be taking them off anyway—all that was good, and I’m glad I did it.
But now I can’t imagine putting up with six months of winter in Minnesota for the sake of experiencing the maybe two snows per year that would promote coziness before the slush. It wasn’t that good. Reverie will do nicely.