I Miss Violent Weather


I miss violent weather. There's something inspiring - terrifying, too - about the buildup of a storm. The sky turning green, winds building up in increasingly violent gusts, objects picking themselves up off the ground seemingly against their will and hurling themselves for impalement into trees and fences. This is drama on a natural scale, replete with foreshadowing and a building plot. No, it's better: it's a show which must go on, heightened by the incessant beating of rain, windows rattle rhythmically, and the sonorous pounding of thunder to shake foundations. Flashes of lightning sear the sky with their sizzle and crack for punctuation. It's the gods of the heavens throwing thunderbolts, or perhaps it's Poseidon or Neptune - choose your sea god, I'm not picky - slamming the trident. Ahhh! THEN... it suddenly stops. And you exhale langorously, realizing that you can. You look about, the denoument of a glorious damage survey offering its bounty for contemplation. Wow, how did that get there?!? Now, that's living!

But such is only for the lucky ones who actually get storms, what I term real, ass-kicking, weather. This is unfortunately not part of Seattle's make-up, however. Literature, film, mountains, sea, and even coffee, yes! Wrenched-away roofs floating haphazardly, twisting lazily in the wind in flight over the city, bemusedly pondering their landing pad, no! Indeed, for all the things I so love about Seattle - even the gray and the rain I can absolve for spells - I don't forgive this lack of weathered excitement. Where's our Man vs. Nature? The fury of the elements, the loss of control, the noble fight, the tough struggle... where's the danger and the doubt? My queries go unheeded, submerged in a fog which lowers to squash them silently.

What set me off bemoaning down this track has been my eager following of the recent Hurricane Charley's path of destruction through Southwest Florida. Glued to the latest reports on the never-ending Weather Channel, I couldn't help but think of all those poor, helpless... yeah, whatever! I wasn't really thinking of them that much at all. No, I was merely jealous, and envious, too, plus some even bigger words (if I had a thesaurus handy, anyway)! My Mom, my sister, my brothers and their respective broods - THEY were having all the fun! In Tallahassee, Tampa, and Ft. Myers, they too were certainly engrossed in the Weather Channel's latest gasping brief, the most recent clip of disaster on CNN, or their own local and heroically windblown TV crew. All were equally likely destinations as the hurricane stalled and made up its mind. They shared one overriding question: how would they and their homes pull through the storm? But way, WAY back here in that sheltered burg called Seattle, yeah, sure, I wanted them to be safe, but, but...for the grace of God... it coulda been ME!

Oh, I had my chances, and boy did I blow them! At least two occasions come to mind, but undoubtedly more were in the offing. Upon my arrival in Florida in '86, where I was to attend Florida State in Tallahassee, I quickly discovered that Hurricane Kate had smashed through the year before. Hurricanes being a new phenomenon to me, when I went over to nearby Alligator Point I was amazed to still see the demolished houses and disaster zones. This was pretty cool stuff! Some years later, to bookend my Florida years immediately after leaving Tampa and the state for good, Hurricane Andrew had his way with greater Miami. That was at the other end of the state, sure, but still! There was no shortage of destruction there. Looking at the sea of tile-bereft roofs, it was obvious that ceramic shingles would be in demand for a good while. What a ripe time to buy stocks in clay! If such things existed, anyway.

But. And. However. Back to me, Me, ME? What did I get for six hard-earned years of that vaunted Florida sunshine? Nothing. No Force 5 (as we all know, the top of the wipeout scale) 'cane, no Force 4, and not even one measly Force 1 (should we even count this?), either. Yeah, I could talk about some blistering lightning storms - Tampa Bay receives more strikes than anywhere in the western hemisphere - but hurricanes, or even tornadoes for that matter, the real deals? No. Nope! NADA! Sigh.

Well, it certainly won't happen here in Mistville. No, not in booooooring Seattle. Windstorm '95 only gave way to Windstorm '98, whoop-dee-doo, and the local weatherpeople made do as well by working the distant Pacific Coast for any possible exciting footage of nature's disturbance. Apparently a pounding surf suffices for real action. Compounding this - gods be confounded and idiot I surely be! - I even missed the area's 7.0 jolt on the Richter while I was off looking for adventure in Argentina. Just my luck. All I received for THAT upon my return were some cracks on the wall and rubble gloriously splattered all over my desk in Pioneer Square. It probably wasn't cleaned to heighten the effect, seeing that a month had transpired in the meantime. That's what we settle for here. And that's not even weather, anyway - where's the crescendo to mayhem, the anticipation of impending chaos? Arghh! No, we brothers and sisters of the banana slug have to wait here in Mildtown for our annual first fall rain or bi-annual winter snow dumping to make traffic a bigger mess than it already is. That's what we term excitement. The elements are plainly bored here.

And now I'm committed to this boredom. I've bought a house. I've bought into the Northwest lifestyle and sunk my roots into the midst of the still and drenched canopy that we call the Emerald City (or the Queen City, or even Jet City - we DO at least have an identity crisis). For the first time in my life, I'll actually sit on my very own front porch and watch the weather go by. Yep, all I need is a spittoon for the cherry pits as I gaze away... some summer sun, endless chains of drizzle, a random and real rain. And, doubtlessly yawning with idle drift, I'll drowsily shake myself on occasion to pull out my phone to call up my kin. Remembering the latest news, I'll see if they made it through the latest exciting storm all right. I'll listen to the thrill in their voices in the retelling, and that of their kids yelling forgotten details in the background, each of whom will have already seen more of Florida's wild side in their few years of age than I ever did. I'll sit, I'll listen with envy, and I'll shake my fist at the sky, upsetting my coffee. WHY?

(2004)

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