A few weeks ago a "macro storm" blew through my neighborhood. I was getting ready for work doing my usual morning routine (taking a shower actually) when Moose came into the shower with me and began digging in the tub. After my 'What the.." moment I realized something was really wrong. Not because he was in the tub-he usually comes to this space to be safe during a thunderstorm or fireworks show-but because he came into the tub with me in it while I was mid-shower. Something had to be wrong.
I stopped the shower only to realize that the thunder-like clouds, eerie stillness and quietness of the morning that had been five minutes before while letting the dogs out for their morning piddle in the yard was now a fully fledged tornado like storm. Rain was pouring through the open windows, wind was tossing branches around, thunder booming and lightening crashing around me. I grabbed my towel and scampered in my closet (on top of all my shoes) with the dogs and closed the folding doors as much as the humidity would let me.
Things were racing through my mind: Was I supposed to know about this storm? Why don't I watch the morning news!? Lord, help take care of me and the dogs. Protect our home. What can I grab to put clothes on? These shoes are really uncomfortable to sit on. Why did I not realize the greenish tint in the clouds? How is this happening? Please don't let anyone get hurt.
That is when I heard the sound of the 120 foot tree in my backyard uprooting and falling. I know people ask, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound?" Well, I now know the sound and I say yes it does. I watched through the tiny crack in the closet door as it landed away from my house and on top of the neighbors house. I watched as lightening cracked into a tree next to it and more branches came out. Violet escaped the closet and went under the bed. The power went out. And more of this for another 10 minutes.
The whole storm lasted about twenty minutes. My house was untouched. The dogs and I were okay, unscathed. It was like something from a movie as people all came out of their homes in their nightclothes and work wear to assess the damage. Immediately sounds of sirens from police, fire, and ambulances filled the still air. I called work to tell them I couldn't come in (I am sure I sounded like a complete crazy person who couldn't put words together. I rambled something about a storm, trees down, damage, and not coming in). I called Mike to tell him to come home, and that the tree was on the neighbors house and I couldn't see if they were okay (equally rambled in nonsensical sentences, I am sure).
As quick as it came, it went, and the storm was over. I can't explain the relief I felt. The deep sense of awe I experienced as I looked over the wreckage of Mother Nature and what used to be my clean, carefully manicured little neighborhood now graffitied with branches and telephone poles down across the roads and front of homes. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it all. How did our house NOT get hit? How am I okay?
Within all the wreckage I saw hundreds of tiny acorns scattered around our yard. They were everywhere! It made me smile, because beyond all of the damage, the fear, and the worry I was experiencing I remembered a sweet three year old girl from my class cleaning up acorns a few weeks before and asking me "Where do I put all of these tiny coconuts?" It made me laugh then and it made me smile with such deep thankfulness in that moment. Ha. Tiny coconuts-they do look like that I suppose to a small child. And I felt a wave of gratitude toward her and the Universe and how fortunate I was amongst all the tiny coconuts.
Mike saw my smile and asked me what I could be smiling about. I gathered a couple hands full of acorns and placed them on the deck. I then took my phone out and took a picture to say, "Look at all these tiny coconuts."
Have you ever had a storm in your life that came with only the most glimmer of a warning and changed your life? Have you taken that opportunity to look around you and choose whether it was a blessing or a lesson? Did you use that storm to give gratitude towards all the good in your life or get stuck in pity of all the things that needed to be done or you wished could be different?
I know each person has many storms in their lives. This was an actual, physical storm, but I am still taking it as an opportunity in my life to grow as a human in my understanding, love, compassion, and humility. I took that day as an opportunity to look at my life and all I have in it. To continue to say Yes to the change in me that has been blossoming over this past year. It's funny how twenty minutes can give you a reevaluation of life and what you want out of it. A quick clarity checklist and sense of bravery. Yes, Mike and I are still figuring out the damage and cleaning up stumps, branches, and thousands of those tiny coconuts...but we are okay.
The background noise in my neighborhood has changed from those of playing children to ones of constant chainsaws, leaf-blowers, and reconstruction crews. Even now, weeks later on a Monday afternoon, that is what I hear. We get the trees removed next week possibly. I wish they were gone now, that the fence was fixed, and the damage from the storm was erased like an etch-a-sketch shaken by an excited child. But it will all be fine and in time, it will get fixed. And weeks from now when my neighbors home is fixed, the fence is repaired, and there is much more sunlight in my backyard minus our large trees, I will only have the memory of the storm that passed by so quickly.
So many things changed from that short storm: My relationship with my neighbors has changed. We now we talk to each other much more frequently. I would like to say that Violet barks at them less but alas, not everything has changed. The landscape of my yard has changed-not so much shade or need of raking leaves in the upcoming autumn season. But more importantly, my awareness and time spent in gratitude has changed. My priorities, my reflections of what are really wants vs. needs in my life has shifted. I certainly do not have all of the answers in life, but I am glad for the insurgence of clarity and the deep inner knowing that I will be okay in whatever comes next.
But I guess what I have to say about all of it is that when storms come into your life, you can stay stuck in the damage or look around for the tiny coconuts.
... I have recently commandeered many tiny coconuts, both physical and theoretical. Send me a line if you would like any.
Brittany Courchesne is an early childhood educator, teacher mentor to teachers in training, public speaker, and blogger.