It was a study in contrasts. The previous evening my Weather Alert radio crackled with near constant alarms about dangerous thunderstorms in my area of north central Maryland, widespread flooding across roads as nearby rivers and creeks exceeded their banks, damaging winds and, then, a tornado, one of several that would touch down near and in Baltimore over the course of several nerve-wracking hours on Monday. I had left my evening yoga class early, not really knowing why, with only a persistent sensation that I had a lot of writing to do and I wanted to get to it. Oddly, there were no other cars on the road as I made the three-mile trip from the gym to my home in northwest Baltimore County. It was only 7:30 in the evening, a little early for the entire population of my community to be turned in for the night.
My car radio issued the first heads-up about a line of severe thunderstorms heading in my direction. But it was when I got home that my attention soon turned to urgent announcements from my area-specific Weather-Alert radio, designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and sold by Radio Shack. A tornado had touched down about ten miles directly south of me, spawned by a storm that was headed directly for my neighborhood. “Take shelter immediately” came the hair-raising directive.
There aren’t many “safe-shelter” options in my 150-year-old farmhouse. The hand-dug basement, hollowed out beneath my kitchen floor in the 1930s when electricity arrived in my community for the first time, is open to the crawlspace on two sides. It would hardly shelter me from the elements, and offered too many opportunities in its many nooks and crannies for the cats to evade observation. But the house itself, a simple 30-foot by 30-foot “foursquare” structure, has no chamber with all-interior walls. My main floor powder room, a tiny 41-inch by 81-inch space which had probably been a pantry in the 19th century, offered the most protection, with its windowless exterior wall and plumbing on two sides to provide enhanced structural support.
The last time I acted on the imminent arrival of a tornado was so many years ago that I only had one cat to gather up in the process of seeking shelter. Now I had three to corral I grabbed my two “mellower” kitties and set them on the floor of the diminutive bathroom. Then I scooped up my gigantic, 18-pound scaredy-cat, Underfoot, and rushed him into the tiny space, closing the door behind me. I took a seat cross-legged on the shag area rug which graces my polished black granite floor. A flashlight, my land-line phone, my i-Phone, some drinking water and a couple of blankets were set out before me. The electricity was still on. Underfoot cowered on my lap as claps of thunder boomed right over the house, rattling the walls. Wind howled and rain pounded in torrents, creating a roar that I wondered was what a tornado might sound like. My NOAA alert system continued to issue breathless warnings on the other side of the house, but I couldn’t understand the words from inside the bathroom. Was a tornado coming?
I turned to my iPhone for information. The tornado warning for my immediate area would expire in another twenty minutes. We huddled together, the cats and I, listening to the din outside and hoping for the best.
Eventually the thunder quieted as the storm continued its northeast trajectory. The rain’s intensity subsided a bit. Only five minutes more to go. My “middle” cat, Elfie, began to play, reaching her paws beneath the door into the house beyond. My tiniest kitty, Ember, stood on her hind feet and stretched down into the brass wastebasket, fishing for crumpled Kleenex and other debris in an effort to amuse herself. Even Underfoot began to relax a little, my surest sign that the danger had passed.
When the tornado warning officially expired for my neighborhood, I opened the bathroom door. Except for a steady rain and the sound of thunder in the distance, all was quiet. The cats were eager to be out, not quite understanding the nature of their temporary confinement, especially with “mom” on the floor with them.
The following day, on the other hand, was bright and sunshiny, with steam rising thickly from the ground as all that deposited moisture began to evaporate. I sought something cool to wear for my commute from Baltimore County to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. where I conduct research on behalf of my employer. Something that celebrated the brilliance of this late spring day and my triumph over the previous night’s anxiety.
I started with bright white, Perfectly Slimming Levi’s 512 boot-cut jeans, which I purchased on sale last summer at Macy’s for only $13. A babydoll top of breezy polyester by Unity World Wear from JCPenney in a striking combination of deep blues and greens with a delicate embroidered embellishment on the front placket seemed a tantalizingly cool counterpoint to the long pants. I added white gladiator sandals by Olsenboye from Macy’s and a vintage necklace of oversize white beads that was part of my grandmother’s extensive costume jewelry collection in the 1950s.
|This purse is made from a real license plate, with a strap made|
from rubber tires
And so a day of scary weather was followed by a day of bright sunshine; typical this time of year for a good part of the United States. I was more than ready to celebrate having weathered the storm as I embraced my cool-as-a-cucumber hues.