for whom the bell tolls

Storm season is back amongst us again, blowing through in a succession of muggy afternoons and dark-grey clouds. It's later than usual this year, having decided to wander in and get revved up only towards the end of spring. Several nights this week, Jeff has had to shut off the weather radio multiple times.

I grew up in Arkansas, mind you; they don't call it Tornado Alley for nothing. I know that I'm more blasé about tornadoes than I should be. Perhaps it's the knowledge that they will come, every spring, and knowing that when I turn on the television to find their paths, it will either be our time—or it won't. My feelings on the matter have no bearing whatsoever on the outcome.That said, there's a difference between being blasé and being an idiot. I get concerned when the weather radio announces a tornado warning. But we know the drill; the National Weather Service puts out tornado warnings when rotation is detected on radar. All well and good—and admittedly, one must draw the line somewhere—but there is a massive difference between radar-detected rotation (which may or may not point down toward the ground) and an visually-verified tornado.

Most of the time, when a warning is issued, Jeff and I pile up on the couch, turn on a local TV station, and watch the local weather guys crow about the suddenly-falling skies. If the storm is on our side of the county, and if a tornado is visually confirmed, then I start getting a bit worried.

This last week, I put my shoes on just once in response to a warning. Shoes, of course, are an excellent indicator that someone's worried about high winds and blown objects—after all, broken glass is nasty to walk on in bare feet.

Maybe I don't get quite so worried about tornadoes now because I realize that I don't have the safe place to go to that we did when I was living with my parents. If forced to be stuck in Tull while a tornado is roaring through the area, the only place you want to be is in the basement of the Methodist church.

Aside from single-family storm shelters, I believe it's the only basement in Tull.

I have distinct memories of Mom packing us up on the occasional nights when the tornado warnings actually meant business, and driving us to the church. They'd go downstairs and sit around the table, talking quietly until the danger was passed. I would play, in one room or another, but eventually grow bored with the serious talk of the adults, and play elsewhere.

All these years later I remember the greenish cast of the sky on those days, and the closeness of that narrow staircase down to the basement. I would play on the stairs, waiting for the all-clear to go home. I didn't understand the stakes involved.

I find myself wondering what I'd do if, one stormy day, I turned on the television and discovered that today was our turn. A classic 'for whom the bell tolls' moment, I suppose. I think I'll let it alone for the time being—until the end of storm season rolls around.

So turn the radio up and pass the bottle round
And then we'll have one more dance before we all fall down
I'll wear my favorite tie, you can wear your wedding gown
And then we'll both look real sharp when we all fall down
- Kevin Gilbert, 'All Fall Down'