Nature reminds us what’s in our nature to forget

I was sitting on the porch of our Northside home last week when a nearly solid sheet of rain advanced quickly toward me. I moved inside where my son, Mattias, napped peacefully as the rain began to pound violently on the rooftop. Only minutes before, the air had been cool and placid, and the sky had given no indication of such a downpour. The clouds, now boiling, turned angrily dark.

I ran quickly around the house, shutting storm windows. Just as the last one closed, the power transformer across the street let out an agonizing groan. Our living room went dark just as I heard a crackling I thought was lightning in the front yard.

I glanced out the front window just in time to see a sixty-year-old ash tree split into three pieces. One limb crashed across the width of the street, blocking the path of anyone foolish enough to be driving. Another fell toward our house, thankfully redirected by another tree as it crashed earthward.

A third tree between the neighbor’s house and ours split just as I received a message from the weather service on my phone. It was the third alert in about a minute’s time, but I had been too absorbed in the moment to notice. The warning indicated that a funnel cloud was forming over north-central Pueblo.

My wife, Amy, ran upstairs to gather our son, who never stirred prior to her waking him. The largest of our trees hung ominously over his room, and with two exposed windows, we decided that disturbing his sleep was more desirable than other alternatives.

We lingered in the basement for half an hour, with the pitch dark broken only by an anemic flashlight whose batteries had not been checked since the last monsoon season. When the storm passed our yard was blanketed by the remains of trees, and the gutters swelled beyond their capacity. We were blocked in our driveway by three limbs immovable by human hands, and we remained without power for just over a day.

The entire experience, as well as the days that followed, reminded me of several things which the relative mundanity of life allow me to neglect.

It reminded me of the awesome power of God’s creation, and my relatively humble place in it.

It reminded me that whatever control we think we have is at best fleeting, if not all together illusory.

Despite inconveniences and minor expenses, I was reminded of those along the Gulf Coast and abroad who still suffer the after-effects of nature’s wrath.

The family from our congregation who brought us dinner as we cleaned the debris from our yard reminded me that there’s something more than a church building that binds us together.

Spontaneous neighborhood gatherings, watching as firefighters and power companies restored order, reminded me that, despite our hectic and self-absorbed culture, we are indeed a community.

The double rainbow that arched overhead following the torrents reminded me that God’s universe is a place of chaos, and at the same time, indescribable beauty.

The complaints from a surly handful of folks about blackouts and road closures less than a day after the storm reminded me that we all could use to place our relative wealth, health and safety in a much broader context.

Incessant why’s and how’s issued from my son about the incident reminded me that, hard as I may try, I will leave this world with many more questions than answers.

We still have some cleanup ahead, but there’s a part of me that hopes we won’t sweep away all of the signs of the experience too quickly. I need to be reminded of what’s important, and how blessed I really am, every once in a while.

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