The evening was warm for late March, but we knew it wouldn’t last much longer; the weather was due to take a turn for the much worse that night. We sat outside on the patio on the plastic furniture we’d borrowed for our daughter’s birthday party, and we talked about the kids and my career and where we saw ourselves in five years, where we thought we’d be once we’d made it past the financial disaster we were facing thanks to the implosion of the real estate market. Both of us sat with our backs to the house, facing west and our large, empty backyard and the copse of trees and the large pond beyond. The muted oranges and reds of the sunset in the western sky bled into a purplish-gray bruise of thick cloud cover rolling in to the north. As we talked, the wind started to pick up and we felt that first sharp, sudden drop in temperature that signaled the leading edge of the storm.
We gathered up the plastic furniture and laid it down so that the wind wouldn’t take it, and we picked up those few items in the yard we might not expect to see again if the winds came through as roughly as we knew they could. (Shortly after moving into the house, the winds which tear violently through the piedmont in which we live actually blew over our grill. We don’t take chances anymore.) We stood on the small concrete slab of patio for a few moments, my arm around her waist, and we watched the sun set and felt the breeze pick up a little more.
I feel like King Lear, I told her, except that I only have two daughters and I’m pretty sure they both love me.
She went inside then to get the kids ready for bed. I told her I’d be just a few minutes. I walked out to the middle of the yard, planted my feet (I wasn’t wearing shoes, only socks) and faced due north.
And I waited for the storm to come.
I stood there for quite awhile just being, a somewhat unusual condition for me: I’m not a nature person by nature. I’m more air conditioning and Internet than tent and campfire. But for now, I simply stood and let the elements play across me. The occasional strong gust of wind would whip through the yard, blowing my long hair and pressing my shirt and jeans tight against my body. I watched the lightning off to the north, sometimes quick flashbulbs and other times floodlights illuminating every detail of the soft gray clouds hovering over the neighborhood.
I’m going to stand right here, I thought, until it starts to rain.
A train roared past to the west, the thunder of its wheels rolling along the track commingling with the thunder in the sky to create a baritone rumble I could almost feel as well as hear, a rumble which soon gave way to the shriek of wind whipping across the wide, flat expanse of yard running behind the houses on my street.
I quickly discovered that the expectation of rain carried its own surprising emotional weight. As the wind continued to gain strength and the air continued to cool, I began to feel an intimate connection with the weather, each increasing gust further ratcheting up the tension within me — much the same way each of a lover’s touches aren’t disconnected experiences, but rather each builds on all of the touches which have come before it. And like the stroke of a lover’s fingers, particularly strong blasts of wind would touch me just so, wrap around me just right, would make my jaw drop open just a little and let a small sigh escape.
After half an hour of my standing alone in the dark of my backyard, she came out to check on me just as the wind swirled tightly around me. I felt both a little embarrassed and a little violated, as if she’d found me in bed with someone else. When I tried to speak, my voice came out as a croak.
It’s time to put the kids to bed, she said.
Just a few more minutes, baby.
But I didn’t know how long I would be, not really. I wanted the rain. I wanted my moment of poetry.
Nature owes you nothing, you know. Nature could care less whether you want it to rain, need it to rain or pray to god it doesn’t rain. It’ll get here when it gets here.
I wanted it, though. I wanted to feel whatever I was going to feel when those first drops of cold rain hit my face. The storm would reach my yard, it would lash me and soak me and hold me and rattle my teeth with the rage of its thunder…but I would face it down and I would stand solid and I would come through the other side of the storm in one piece. Slightly worse for the experience, perhaps…but perhaps slightly better.
But then I turned toward the house and I saw her, now in the living room in the warm blue bathrobe which perfectly matches the color of her beautiful blue eyes. She carried our younger daughter, who had two fingers in her mouth in her reflexive who-me-tired? gesture, towards the stairs. Our older daughter bounced after her.
And then the realization came: I could stand out here in the dark by myself and wait for the coming storm to drench my clothes and crack my cheeks — or I could go inside and put my children to bed, read them a story and kiss them goodnight. I could wait for the storm, or I could live my life and know that I had prepared as best I could for the storm’s arrival.
I closed my eyes one last time and felt the air brush past my face, and I went inside.