Horse of a Different Color

By Cynthia Cassel

Well, it’s getting close to that special season again; when our view of the world around us goes from sepia to brilliant color and little flowers sing a welcome to us when we step out the door.  Oh, wait, either I’m having those annoying delusions again or I’m confusing real life with a certain movie.

Either way, I’m pretty happy that when twister season begins we can see it happen in all its powerful glory.  You may think I’m crazy (having delusions was kind of a hint), but I love to watch storms and particularly ones that portend a tornado.   Our tornado drill earlier this week also brought this to mind, although it was a bit strange to look out the window at fields of snow as sirens blared. 

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.  When the sirens beckon, I reluctantly take my snarling cat and my purring husband down to our safe place in the basement.  Maybe I got that last sentence backward, but you get my drift.

But before I head downstairs, I love to sit on the back porch and watch the sky.  The towering cotton balls of cloud standing in bas relief against a deep grey sky signal the beginning.  As the sky darkens, I’m always transfixed by how many shades of purple-slate nature’s ceiling can take on.  The best of all is when everything turns that bilious yellow-green like a dragon about to heave his last meal.  It’s scary and wondrous all at the same time.

And I watch with utter fascination as a line across the sky sends tendrils of cloud downward toward the earth.  I watch the bottom line of those clouds carefully and patiently to see which of those tiny tendrils might descend and grow, heralding the beginning of another anxious season.  I always feel a thrill when before my very eyes I witness the birth and death of a tornado as a tendril forms, descends, then is sucked back into its mother-cloud.

What makes twister season so enthralling to me is the overwhelming power of it all.  The simple fact that a cool breeze becomes a strong wind then becomes a force of such great destruction that it flattens whole towns.  I’m always gob-smacked by that feeling of breathlessness when suddenly the wind stops dead; the air becoming thick and heavy.  The humbling effect of clouds that are so very beautiful to behold can become so alarmingly black that street lights come on in a display of confusion.  How a lovely sunny day turns into an angry hissing mess that makes adults run to hide like little children. 

We are forced to take cover, and yet, there is a longing deep in my heart to watch it all play out.  My husband thinks I should have chosen meteorology as my career path.  I have no desire to stand in a TV studio blathering on about the weather-I want to watch as it unfolds.  If I had to watch a screen I probably would watch the beautiful site Casey shared last year, where you can literally watch the wind from your computer.

Don’t even get me started about our booming Kansas summer thunderstorms.  I get up in the middle of the night to traipse out to the back porch and just sit in amazement at the show.  It helps that Mother Nature hasn’t included any obnoxious commercials with this fabulous production.

So, my friends come join me sometime while I watch and listen to one of the most amazing and terrifying events that our atmosphere has to offer.  I’ll put on a pot of coffee and you bring the cookies.  To really appreciate what’s happening you have to be willing to sit patiently for a while.  There’s plenty of room on my back porch and I’d welcome your observations in the “Merry Old Land of Oz”, home to over 3,700 tornados.

Cynthia Cassel is a SEE Grantee where, for 3-1/2 years, she has worked with the Wetland and Streams team in the Water branch.  Cynthia received her BS from Park University and lives in Overland Park where she regularly carries a bag of rocks so as to remain safely earthbound.

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