The last two nights I’ve found myself sitting on the roof with a boy or two watching storm clouds roll in across the sky. I spent a summer in Kazakhstan. One in Alaska. A year in Hawaii. Other than that I’ve pretty much been in Oklahoma. I’ve grown up with tornadoes. It is just part of spring around here. Schools have a tornado plan along with fire drills. Neighbors gather on front lawns, looking at the sky watching the clouds change. Honestly, many times we joke about how weathermen get too excited about the chance of a tornado. Because the thing is, we have a lot of tornado warnings, a lot of tornado watches, a lot of tornadoes, and usually not much ever comes of it. But, we always take it seriously. We also always carry with us the knowledge and fear of what a tornado can do. The vast devastation my state is facing now, is rare and horrific.
The thing about tornadoes is you know when they are coming. Countless lives have been saved because of the incredible job the local news stations do to urge people to take cover. Typically you don’t evacuate, you hunker down. You prepare for them to come. You pack up essentials. Grab bike helmets to protect against flying debris. Pack some food (or smoothies).
You watch the news. You listen for tornado sirens. Tornado shelters aren’t big. Sometimes it is a closest, a bathroom or an inner room. Sometimes it is an above ground shelter. Sometimes underground. Regardless, shelters aren’t big. Several times a year I’ve grown up grabbing a couple items to take in the shelter with me. There isn’t much in my life that gives me perspective like the chance of a tornado destroying my home. When you can only grab a couple of things, you realize it is all just stuff. When you look at your house and hope it is still standing when you come out of the shelter – it makes it hard to become too attached to stuff. All I really care about getting in that shelter is my family, photographs and important documents. My kids are old enough now that they get to choose what to take in the shelter with them. My five year old picked two pictures. My seven year old picked a picture too. Photography is a treasured item even among kids.
My home has never faced major destruction. I can’t imagine the grief that would be associated with losing all you own. After we prepare, we sit and wait. Before I knew the devastation these recent tornadoes would cause, I was sitting on the roof thinking a lot about the storms of life. I share happy pictures on my blog because photography is a gift in my life. When personal storms rage around me, there is something about photography that helps me find beauty. Helps me gain a healthy perspective. Right now you will see happy pictures of my kids playing on my blog because photography is healing to me, but my family is facing some personal storms. Big changes, future uncertainties, Little One’s major palate repair is in two weeks, insurance issues with her past surgery…just stuff that feels hard. Feels heavy. Things, like a tornado, we kind of knew were on the horizon, but like a tornado, we couldn’t really prepare for. Two nights ago the personal storms we were facing felt so big and sad.
Today they feel small.
The things most dear in my life – my family and friends – are strong, healthy, and safe. So many of my neighbors are aching to hold a loved one again. They were prepared for the storm, but no one can prepare for this kind of aftermath. It is gut-wrenching. I cannot fathom being in a tornado without my children in the shelter by my side. I can’t fathom waiting for news about my child outside an elementary school search and rescue. These are horrendous days for my state. Oklahoma may not be known for it’s natural beauty, but as a lifetime Okie, I’m telling you this state is full of the most beautiful people. Salt of the earth, take care of your neighbor, smile and wave kind of people. Thank you for your prayers for those in my state that must move forward today after losing everything. Thank you for praying for those that could prepare for a storm, but never this kind of aftermath.