My Congress with a Fickle Woman

This post originally appeared yesterday on Unstressed Syllables. Maybe I’m a cheat to re-post it here — but I thought my Court Can subscribers might like a chance to read my latest adventure, too.

Near Chickasha, Oklahoma

In case you haven’t heard, we Oklahomans had some excitement this past Tuesday.

50 Humans, 5 Cats, 4 Dogs, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree*

Said excitement is how I ended up in the basement of the church building across the street, wondering if I’d still have a neighborhood when I emerged, much less an apartment.

It was stuffy; it was crowded. There were leggy preteen girls running up and down the basement corridor. The whole place was crawling with people I didn’t know. (And if you know me, you know that’s not my favorite type of social situation.)

When we arrived, a woman thrust a blanket-wrapped bundle into my friend Brian’s arms and said, “Will you hold him? I have to go to the bathroom, I’m so scared.” As she hurried away, we unwrapped the bundle. I thought it was going to be a baby. It was some kind of scrawny terrier with mournful eyes and long mustaches.

Ed, my husband, is an amateur radio operator (aka ham), so he glued his ear to his radio as we hunkered in the hallway. Brian retrieved a map of Oklahoma City, and we pored over it, looking for the county names coming in over the airwaves. Logan. Canadian. McClain. When I heard mention of the western part of Oklahoma County, I realized I was clenching my teeth.

We’re in Oklahoma County.

10 for 10 — But I Can’t Count on It

Since Ed and I moved here three-and-a-half years ago, we’ve had a tornado scare every spring. And without fail, every time there’s a tornado headed our way, it lifts somewhere west of us and passes us by.

The same thing happened on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. We huddled in that basement for an hour, while the temperature rose, the humidity increased, and the dander of unfamiliar pets got my sinuses draining. (Yum.) A tornado touched down to the south (and I said a silent prayer for Moore and Norman). My heart ached as the radio told us of massive destruction in Piedmont to the north.

But the tornado coming up from Chickasha (and it might be the one in the picture above; I don’t know) never reached us. I don’t know if it blew itself out, or if it’s the one that touched down to the south. Either way, we got an “all-clear” of sorts. We gathered up our two terrified cats and went home. After the tornado sirens, the near-silence was a blaring siren all by itself.

Once again, nature’s devastation passed us by. There’s a lake less than a mile west of our area, so maybe the temperature change around the lake has something to do with it. I don’t know. I only know that so far, every time a tornado has headed straight for us, it has spared us.

But Mother Nature’s a capricious lady. I know I can’t trust her. She’s beautiful, always. Even in the midst of tornadic destruction, I recognize the raw beauty in that unimaginable power. But I’ll watch her from a distance, thank you. If she glances in my direction, I’m taking cover.

Don’t look at me, Mother Nature. I’m just a bug, I promise — never worthy of your closer attentions.

Moral of the Story

What does all of this have to do with writing? Nothing, really.

Oh, you can draw conclusions, if you like, about the application of fear and adventure to the writing process. “Remember these emotions,” I might tell myself. “Lean on them when your characters are in trouble.”

Or, I could advise us all to observe people during a crisis and use those observations for character development. Really, I gleaned something from Tueday’s adventure about every part of the writing process.

But today, I’m not thinking about any of that. I’m thinking about the families who lost loved ones. I’m thinking about the people in Piedmont whose homes now resemble piles of broken matchsticks. I’m thinking of the devastation in Joplin, Missouri (they got hit far worse on Sunday night).

I’m thinking about how control is an illusion. I’m thinking about how I’m not the one in charge, and I never will be.


*Some assembly required.

4 thoughts on “My Congress with a Fickle Woman

  1. Pamela Davis says:

    Glad to hear that you were once again left untouched by the tornadoes. My guess is that when you are in the midst of something like that, waiting for the storm to hit, that writing is the last thing on your mind. Or at least it would be that way for me. Stay safe!

    • Thanks so much, Pam! So far, so good — no more tornados in our area since then. I’m sad for others who’ve been hit, though.

      And you’re right: I don’t think much about writing in situations like that! However, the writer brain doesn’t really turn off: After it was all over, I remembered little details that could could add vibrance in stories — either in disaster scenes or just desperate situations the characters might find themselves in. For me, so much about writing is just observing human behavior and remembered the nuances.

  2. Judy Dunn says:

    Ha! I looked at that title and though about all the people who might be googling “congress” (the political kind or not) or “woman.”

    Seriously, that had to be so frightening. The worst being, not knowing what is happening to the place you call home. If you had had your journal with you (and could focus), you might have picked up some interesting details:setting, pieces of dialogue, etc. to be used in another work. Or not.

    SO glad you are safe and had a home to go back to. Just thinking of all the people who didn’t makes my heart break.

    • Well, Judy, you’re one of my mentors in the crafting of (1) catchy titles and (2) SEO bait. So I have your teaching to thank for this one. ; )

      As I just mentioned to Pam above, my writer brain did catalogue a few nuances while we were sitting in that basement. I didn’t write them down, but I remembered them later. The lady with the dog really stood out to me, since she handed her bundle to complete strangers and made no secret of her fear. I’ll likely never see her again, but she intrigued me!

      I, too, am thankful that I still had a home to return to, and heart-broken for those who didn’t. I have some friends who are making a disaster-relief trip to Joplin, and though I can’t go with them, I’m sending prayers and some financial aid. Every little bit helps.

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