I remember those wild summer days in Ohio.
The afternoon air dared not move. Chocked full of humidity and burdened by heat of the day, it was thick with the smell of pollen and cut grass. Squirrels moved around their trees with a special laziness, and the only songs to be heard came from a handful of determined red-winged blackbirds. Looking west you could see the cumulus clouds, the harbingers of heavy rain, reaching high into the atmosphere.
This was the calm before the storm.
Inside the house, with the air conditioner running, and physically separated from it, you could still feel the pregnant pause and bated breath carried by the whole of the outside world. Likely as not, the TV was tuned to Channel 3 news, and Tony Cavalier was standing in front of a projected map of our region. Overlaying the state lines and the names of cities were large swaths of green, yellow, and red. He would imitate the prevailing winds and push the boundaries of the storm in their projected directions, all the while listing the threat of flash floods and wind gusts.
Then it began to change.
The lacy-fingered leaves of the water maples started trembling and showed their silver underbellies. The oppressive heat quickly faded away in light of the cool breeze. This was last call. The few birds that had been singing now headed for roost, and the low and long thunder could be heard rolling over the hills.
Sometimes the weather warnings were dire enough that we went the cellar, other times we would be trying to finish work in the field and would run into one of our barns at the last minute. Wherever it was you took shelter, there was only one thing to do.
Within the next 15 – 30 minutes, an incredible amount of energy was released from the heavens. In those times of outburst, I’ve seen panelling ripped off a roof, old limbs tore from their trunks, and sheets of rain so thick that they seemed to swallow up every barn and tree as they sped toward the house.
And then it was over. The raging and the magnificent release of energy was born in full. Stepping outside and breathing the fresh air was beautiful, it was much cooler than before and always smelled so clean right after a storm. You could see the many rivulets gurgling across the hills, and the flat places in the lawn had been turned to small swamps. This too only lasted a few minutes. Soon the excess water would find its way to now swollen creeks and pasture ponds. Water was dripping from the branches of old trees, and even though you could see where a few branches had been lost, the trees themselves were no longer trembling. They looked strong – and now clean to boot.
This was the calm after the storm.