Monday, June 22, 2009

Tornados, Waterspouts. What's Next?

We had two tornadoes and a waterspout here in the Baltimore area on Saturday. This is pretty unusual weather for us and everyone was surprised.

The most relentless writer about weather I know is Garrison Keillor, and I admire his work. He often writes about the winters in Minnesota, where winter is apparently a serious thing. His Prairie Home Companion radio show became a favorite of mine when I started listening to it and learning about Minnesota winters while driving my first Miata on back roads on Sunday mornings for the fun of it in the fall of 1997, the beginning of what's turning into a life-long love affair with driving a sporty little car on challenging roads.

It's hard to write, and I think a short story is a particularly difficult thing. If you're Melville writing Moby Dick, and you hit a stretch where you don't have much creativity flowing, you can work instead on all the pages of technical stuff about whaling, and hope you get through the wall in a week or so and then get back to writing the story of Ishmael and the Pequod. But if you were me, a high school freshman in 1972 who had to produce a short story every damned week for freshman English, it's rough sledding on Sunday night. Every Sunday night.

But Garrison Keillor writes at least one short story every week, on deadline, and he reads it on his show as "The News From Lake Woebegone". Most weeks it's a truly good short story, other weeks not so good. But he writes it every week without fail and out it goes, and to my mind that is an heroic writing effort.

As bad as it is for us to have tornadoes in Maryland, I wonder about the people like Kim's sister Carol, who deals with the weather in Topeka. I imagine her battling tornadoes every day while still doing her good works.

Me, on my slow moving sailboat, circa 1992. Photo by Doug Lucy.

But tornadoes are more than we are ready for here. And I get a sick feeling thinking about being out on a slow moving sailboat in the path of a waterspout, which is just a tornado over water. This one came out of the Back River area, crossed the bay, and ran out of steam in the Chester River. That's a busy part of the bay for recreational boaters.

But at the end of it all, we can learn from the tornadoes. Terrible things can happen to people, and those things do happen. A a bad person, a car wreck, a tornado can come, and that's it. You're gone. It could happen anytime, and  it's probably a good idea to try to live enough in the moment that it's not too big a deal if it does.

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