Today, the weather is gorgeous: bright blue skies, sun, not too hot, not too cold, but just right Right, Goldilocks? But here in the stateline area, we have had bipolar weather: weeks of perfect days, then wham! Torrential downpour, monsoons, floods. If I were a betting person, I would say global warming is in the mix. Even if I didnt know for sure, Id say better to be cautious than to be sorry with so much at stake.
In all the years I have lived in Rockford, I dont recall so much extreme weather. About a year ago for Labor Day, we had terrible floods and rain. This year, they came earlier. A few years before, we had a freak storm the night of Independence Day. Perhaps as the climate continues its dance of change, we will have a major storm for every seasonexcept Christmas, which will be warm and balmy.
Here is a poem I wrote the week after the Independence Day storm. I remember hearing something like a train roaring through the back yard. I looked out to see a hanging basket of fuschia swinging with full force like a metronome gone berserk. The huge locust in the front yard lost a limb, which fortunately fell to the ground instead of on our house.I thought wed had a tornado, but it was more like an inland hurricane. We called it a tornado sky, for lack of a better term.
After the Tornado Sky
ferocious lightning cracking trunks of old maples,
slashing branches from honey locust trees,
ripping large pines right from their roots,
freezing clocks at 4:25 a.m.
Dawn after the Tornado Sky.
First the birds cried tentatively.
For a long while squirrels didnt show their faces,
I feared they might have perished,
nests toppling with 100-mile-an-hour winds
that roared through the city like bombers.
All morning the bird calls grew stronger.
I imagined they cried, Where are you?
Im over here. Here. Here.
The scrappy crows were loudest and tenacious,
their feathers iridescent as they poked
through soggy grass. The sparrows, too,
found their way back to the feeders.
A red hawk refugee
from Sinnissippi Park, where pummeled trees lay
like soldiers on a battlefields, landed on a shepherds hook.
Where was the ruby-throated hummingbird
who had befriended me?
My sweet, little garden companion, feeding
at her favorite scarlet bergamot throughout the day.
I wondered how her nest, the size of a penny,
woven from cobwebs, and the twin eggs
as tiny as Tic Tac mints, met the storm.
I wondered where all the nesting creatures went,
and my heart filled like a storm cloud
needing to burst.
The hummingbird returned, early evening.
She saw me at the window, rose up,
a micro-helicopter near my face. I like to think she said,
Im here. We made it.
Though I havent seen the flicker, the chickadees and purple finches are landing on the tilted lilacs and ragged yellow pine. Sometimes a streak of yellow signals a goldfinch by the tender sunflower shoots. A catbird meows somewhere in a thicket of conifers. The squirrels walk on telephone wires
like trapeze artists without balancing poles.
(This poem was published in Who Walks Among the Trees With Charity, Wind Publications. With gratitude to Charlie Hughes, publisher.)
Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called The Writers Garret for this newspaper.
from the Sept. 12 – 18, 2007, issue