Boy howdy, we sure can blast into the new year…just whip up another tornado and kick the 2021 holiday season to the curb with real style.
Mid-day Saturday, January 1. Should have been an average, post-New Year’s Eve afternoon with sale shopping, football watching, maybe a burrito.
Instead, PTSD was popping off people like sparks on a live wire. Phones buzzed. Facebook groups blew up.
It was fast and, fortunately, covered far less ground than our December 11 debacle, but when the photos started filling up our feeds we knew it was unbelievably true.
Follow up that adrenalin surge with a Sunday full of sleet and freezing rain. A winter’s worth of dull, cold, wet gray in one afternoon.
But today we had sunshine. Blessed sunshine.
So, for the first time in at least a month, I walked my usual route. A route that was fortunately, miraculously, somewhat spared. By going the usual way I had, unintentionally, saved the worst for last.
When I round this final corner I’m heading for home, on the last leg of a four mile trek. Every single time I pass by I think about the person, or people, who live in this house on that corner. I don’t know them. For some reason I’ve always thought they were older, although these days that word is a highly relative term.
I had not seen this corner in post-tornado daylight until this afternoon. It took my breath away.
This little kitchen. That little cabinet. Those sturdy little shelves.
There used to be a window over what would have been the sink, where my imaginary woman would have busied herself in hot, sudsy water. Sometimes a red glow spilled out from that window onto the darkening world: an illuminated WKU sign that never failed to make me smile, because I thought about the woman in there at that sink who will be a Hilltopper until the day she dies.
My sunny day spirits sank right into that puddle of muddy water. There was no hiding it: our small spot here on planet Earth is forever changed.
I stood there, rooted on that muddy sidewalk, for a good long while.
But I still had a mile to go, so go I did.
The walking wasn’t as easy now. The going not so pleasant. I began to wish I had just stayed put, indoors, where the real world was easier to forget.
Then I saw them. These men, their vests a tropical brilliance in our wintry, storm-scarred landscape, two huddled on the ground in a nest of debris, one perched high in the branches of what was left of our trees. The sun touched them and the light winked back at me.
Then, a single chair, facing the mother of all chairs, a tree that has done her due.
And then, thankfully, the singular sound of progress after a storm. Rooftop voices in casual conversation, the silhouette of backs bent to labor, the steady, confident ping of hammer on nail.
Almost home now. The light fades. A man stands by the bed of his truck, makes some notes in his phone, loads his extension ladder.
I have to watch my step–no easy going here–dodging cables as thick as my wrist, weaving in and out of debris, end-of-day commuters, bags of sodden things no one wanted to discard.
Then I see this.
An insulator, embedded in dirt, far-flung from its place in the sky. When my husband was a boy in western Kentucky he collected them, some naval blue, some earth brown, some watery turquoise. The sight of it is familiar to me, in a way that feels like home.
I pick it up. Its weight is steady. It feels good and right in my hand.
My pace quickens, my feet move more surely.
Moments ago I was ready to forever change my route. There are other, less painful ways to clock four miles.
But then I would miss the good stuff that comes after the storm.