It’s raining out now, and cold for a girl raised in the tropics. I’ve started the first fire in my new home, the first fire of the season. I know I’ve been neglectful, not quite making the every two weeks rule I set for myself when this blog started out. I owe at least a short story, if not a short story and a recipe, or some blurb. But the fire is crackling, the rain keeps coming down, and the night is dark. So maybe I can make it all up in the next hour, or maybe, even if I don’t, it won’t matter.
The rain started yesterday, the downpour so unexpected I thought for a moment there was leak in the house, some high pressured pipe flooding me out just as I settled in to write. But a moment later I recognized it, a driving rain on the roof. Fall for Florida, summer for where I live now, but the same rain, unannounced, loud, and insistent that you stop to admire it. It took me back to this summer, when I was still in boxes in my new house, driving everywhere looking for furniture.
I took a trip back to DC, to the big city stores. The rain had come the night before, but after I cleaned up the limbs from the yard and shook my head over the lake forming in my basement I was off to the highway. The drive took me twice the time I expected, and once I got there I found no power and lots of hot frustrated people. The storm was called a derecho, ring of fire, and it was only half over. I had lunch at place packed with sweaty people, the air conditioner working overtime while everyone without power packed into plastic booths. I drove home in the second downpour.
Small rocks of hail pelted my window. Lighting forked across the sky every few seconds, offering brief glimpse of fallen trees resting on power lines. Rain poured down, sometimes coming sideways, sometimes looking like it was raining up from the ground. The radio warned of tornados in the area and I strained to hear if that freight train noise was coming toward me. Stuck on a highway for four hours, at paces alternating between the speed limit and a crawl, it felt like the hurricane evacuations of my youth.
Cresting a hill in one rural stretch the flickering lightening revealed a strange sight: not too far in the distance cars began to swear wildly, then slow to a snail’s pace. I could see a tree down over half of the two lane road, but why swerve so far for a tree? The fallen branches weren’t blocking the whole road, and unlike a lot of downed trees no dancing electrical wires played in front of it. The cars on the highway had virtually ignored the downed power lines and tree limbs across the road so far, what made this any different?
I sped along until I could see the tree, and then I broke hard. The problem wasn’t power lines or the tree, not an animal caught in the storm or something natural, but something very human. A group of cars were pulled to the side of the dark highway. With no lights or flares, the drivers were trying to move the behemoth of a tree from the lane it blocked. Men gathered on one side of the tree, pulling it with a concentrated “one-two-three-now” effort. I gawked as one man climbed up on a limb the size of my waist and began to bounce up and down in the flashes of lighting. He jumped with concentrated effort, never realizing that if he succeeded he’d fall nine feet to the pavement below while cars crawled by in the darkness.
With no light but lightening I watched the scene: someone doing his best to solve a problem, but doing it all wrong. It left me wondering, when am I the one bouncing up and down on that limb in the dark, so determined to make it break, so unaware of how much I need it to hold me up?
I’ve changed a lot in the last five months: new job, new city, bought my first house. I’m just now realizing how all that is affecting my writing. I don’t know yet if it’s the storm or the tree limb. I owe this blog a short story, but I don’t plan those out. They come to me, usually in dreams or from some scene on the sidewalk, a photograph or a phrase. I can feel half a dozen of them in the back of my mind, churning, proofing like bread. I promise you’ll know when they’re ready. And hope you’ll tell me if you find me jumping on the thing that’s holding me up.