A Few Poles and a Bit of Cloth

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My blogging really took off several years ago when I posted a comical piece about a camping trip gone bad. I literally dashed off my impressions from inside a tent that was collapsing under a heavy rainstorm while lightning flashed every few minutes. I ultimately abandoned my leaky lodging for the safety of my car which I moved into the parking lot of the campground bathroom in case a tornado alert forced me to seek shelter in a more sturdy place. To say that I endured a night from hell would be an understatement, especially when I saw the destruction that had taken place once the storm was gone and daylight came again. 

My immediate reaction was to abandon all hope of staying when I saw the damage done to trees and much more substantial trailers than my tiny tent. Even though we had already paid for several more nights of living in nature, We decided that the wisest thing we might do is to pack up and leave. I became even more certain that we had made the right decision when we informed that workers in the campground office that that we were cutting our visit short after the frightening night we had spent during the storm. 

To my dismay they nodded with concern and mentioned that during the height of nature’s fury they had worried about us sheltering in a tent. They noted that most of the other tenters had left as had many of the folks in sturdier trailers. They mentioned that several of the cabins were empty and they had thought of directing us to the safety of one of those structures, but they just never got around to making the offer as they patrolled the area. 

Of course I was stunned that they had thought so little of our safety that they had become occupied with other tasks. Then again I realized that we only had ourselves to blame for being so brash as to believe that we would be okay in the middle of flood and tornado warnings. If we had kept our heads we most surely would have hopped into our car and headed for the nearest hotel instead of composing a riotously hilarious blog about our situation in an effort to calm our fears. It’s funny how we humans often put on a face of bravado when faced with situations that frighten us. 

I thought about this memory today because a dangerous winter storm came our way recently. Most folks simply continued with their normal routines, but somehow the forecasts sounded oddly ominous and reminiscent of that ill fated camping trip of long ago. I had a series of four teaching sessions scheduled for that day, but rather than driving to the homes of my students and enduring uncertain weather I decided to err in favor of caution this time around. I still have my Zoom account from the days of Covid and I requested that my students tune in to my lessons remotely. 

As the hours ticked by and very little had happened in the way of vicious weather I began to feel that perhaps I had overreacted to the warnings about possible flash flooding, hail, strong winds and tornadoes. I thought of how that disastrous camping trip had changed my perspective about weather, had made me more prone to fright than I normally would have been. Then my musing was interrupted by a blast on my cell phone warning of tornadoes in my area, urging me to take cover. 

I immediately ended the lesson, apologizing for being so be abrupt, but I was teaching in an upstairs room and I knew that I needed to get downstairs and maybe even enter an interior closet for safety. I felt a bit silly when the danger passed but I reminded myself of the promise that I had made to myself that I would never again knowingly be audacious enough to face the wrath of Mother Nature with abandon. I had seen what she could do during Hurricane Harvey and had become a believer that there are times when we cannot conquer storms with sheer will.

I would later learn that the tornado that briefly set down near me would weave its way for fifty miles damaging apartments, homes, schools, businesses, cars and lives. The trail of destruction was frightening and perhaps only made better by the fact that it did not include tremendous loss of lives. Objects can be replaced or repaired but lives are so much more fragile. We would all do well to heed the warnings of forecasts that tell us to take care. 

I still shudder when I think of that night in the tent that was so frightening that I felt compelled to escape to the greater safety of my car. I hid my terror in a humorous twist of words but somehow the idea of camping in a tent was never the same after that. One more foray during a frigidly cold March week convinced me that I no longer wished to shiver in pain just to prove my metal. We gave away our tent to younger folk and opted for a trailer instead. We also became obsessed with carefully monitoring the weather as though our lives depend on our caution. 

I suppose that bowing to the threats from nature is perhaps a sign of growing older and less adventurous. If that is the case then so be it. I’ve been lucky during the times when I tempted fate in the past. Now I’m done with gambling with my life. I revel in being a cautious fuddy-duddy. Maybe I’ve finally grown up or maybe I just don’t enjoy tempting fate when storms seem to be growing ever more frequent and destructive. I want to keep writing from the comfort of a stronger structure than one made from a few poles and a bit of cloth. I’ve got so much more the say.


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