Friday, June 18, 2010
Extreme weather is always a good reminder of our rightful place in the world as one of many kinds of living beings, and not in charge domination experts we humans like to think we are. Yesterday afternoon and evening, a series of powerful storms ripped through my home state of Minnesota, killing three, injuring dozens, and destroying parts of several towns.
As I sat inside my basement apartment, listening to reports coming in, I couldn't remember a time in the past when there had been so many actual tornado touchdowns in a single day. It was heading right towards us in St. Paul/Minneapolis, and even though a lot of storms seem to weaken as they enter the cities, this one wasn't getting any weaker, so I found myself popping in and out of the apartment building, watching the sky. Around 8:30, I noticed a fierce yellow/orange tinge to the dark clouds that we're rushing overhead. Soon, the color had shifted to red, an odd bright, but also dark red with gray-black clouds intermingled. A few drops of rain began to fall, and I went back in to check the reports.
Nothing. Regular programming had returned to the radio. Another twenty minutes went by without anything else happening. I looked out again, wondering at the beauty of the sky, but also surprised that the rain had stopped and only a fairly strong wind remained. Another twenty minutes went by, and the colors faded into darkness as the sun went down for the day. Not another drop of rain fell in St. Paul, nor did the winds pick up beyond a strong, but not really dangerous gust. The thrust of the storms had missed us.
Recently, I wrote a post about threat narratives, and for those of us living in the Twin Cities, these storms are an interesting parallel to the way those stories play out in our lives. You take something dangerous that might possibly happen, blow up into something that absolutely will happen if you don't do or say certain things, and then even if it doesn't happen, what you experience is still ramped up. Indeed, even though the "storm" misses you, the threat narrative continues to live on because it could have been bad, really bad - you just barely escaped, right?
However, unlike a line of severe storms producing tornadoes, which can and often does cause real damage, many of the threat narratives people have are completely devoid of connections to reality. And yet, think of all the internal tornadoes you've had in your lives because you thought something was going to happen which ended up not happening, and probably had little or no chance of happening in the first place. My city could have been hit by a tornado last night like the others that did get hit in Minnesota; there was little chance that the arguments I was having with one of the directors at work was leading to me getting fired, even though I feared this for several weeks. Not that it couldn't have happened, but it was a long shot really because even if she wanted me gone, she had to convince the other two directors, as well as establish a new precedent - no one's ever been fired from our workplace, at least in the six years I've been there.
After an oppressively warm day yesterday, and those storms, the weather today is calmer, less humid, and almost windless. Pretty interesting how this all happens, isn't it?