Counting the seconds

It’s supposed to snow today. Kim can feel the change in the weather in her knees long before the folks on television predict it.

“It’s going to rain tomorrow,” she said on Tuesday flexing her knee.

Sure enough, we woke to an early morning lightning storm followed by a brief period of pelting rain. A burst of hard heavy drops bouncing off of our roof.

And then it was gone.

In the early afternoon I met my friend Craig for a cup of coffee at the local bread store “On the Rise”. I bought a loaf of the Epi bread for Maggie and a cup of coffee. We sat and talked about computer programming and pedagogy. It looked so nice outside. No sign of the early morning rain. We each bought a refill and took it to the table on the sidewalk in front of the store.

It’s October in Ohio. You don’t waste these last nice days indoors.

I put the Epi down on the table and stood holding my cup of coffee. Craig set his cup down for just a moment – but that was enough. Out of nowhere, there was a big gust of wind. I mean big. It blew my loaf of bread off of the table. It tipped his paper cup full of coffee over and then blew it away as well.

A little boy walking by was stunned. His mother explained that the site of the coffee cup being blown away had rattled him. Craig picked up the loaf of bread and I brushed it off. The bag was wet with coffee but the bread was ok. The little boy handed Craig his coffee cup. We sat and talked for another half hour.

I love that the wind just blows. It doesn’t know what will get caught up in the breeze. The coffee cup. The bread. The wind doesn’t notice. The wind doesn’t care if it blows the coffee onto us or away from us. It just blows. And then it stops.

Earlier in the week I had an instant message from Danese that she’d been woken up by a small earthquake.

“Hmmm,” I said, “I’ve been in several small earthquakes and never felt them.”

“That’s actually very common,” she said. “There are earthquakes all the time and you don’t feel most of them.”

She sent me a link to a site that showed the earthquakes in California in the past week. There were something like three hundred of them.

I had no idea.

I only notice the really big ones. I remember my sister Jill talking about an earthquake in California where she saw a man’s life work crumble before her very eyes. She was working in an art gallery that was doing a retrospective on a particular sculptor’s work. The earthquake shook the building enough that his work was damaged. Everything. Gone.

In Ohio we don’t worry about earthquakes. We have them now and then. Probably it is more accurate to say that we have the ones that people notice now and then. For us, it’s more mundane things like tornados and lightning.

Lightning used to trigger bad memories for me. Memories of being afraid that the lightning would strike out house. Now it triggers good memories. Memories of being a dad.

It’s late night and the whole house is asleep. I awake to feel Elena’s breath on the back of my neck. Another breeze blowing in my direction.

“Daddy,” she asks, “are you awake?” She knows I am. A moment ago I was snoring loudly and now I’m not.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Nothing,” she says. And then I hear the lightning.

“Do you want to lay down with us for a while?” I ask.

She nods. She crawls up over me and under the covers on the other side of me. Maggie would be here too but the sound of the fan in her room is enough to drown out the lightning and the steady feel of the wind from the fan keeps her asleep.

Elena wants to talk about anything but the storm. “Daddy,” she says, “do you remember … ” The window lights up with a nearby flash immediately followed by a house shaking boom of thunder. “That was close,” she says burrowing under me.

“Do you know how to tell how close?” I ask.

She shakes her head. When the next lightning appears I show her how to count “One Mississippi, two Mississippi,” and then we hear the boom. “Two seconds,” I tell her, “that means it was roughly two miles away.”

She’s too young to understand the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. She’s too young really to know where two miles is. “Two miles away,” I say, “that’s about from here to the library and back.”

“Oh,” she says, not sure whether that should be comforting. We count lightning flashes until it is clear that the storm is moving away from us.

“Daddy,” she says.

“What baby?” I ask.

“Where’s mommy?”

“She must have fallen asleep downstairs on the couch watching t.v.,” I say.

“Can I go down and see her?” Elena asks.

“Why don’t you let her sleep?”

Elena hops out of bed and heads, I think, back to her room. Instead of hearing her bed squeak as she climbs over the safety rail, I hear her little feet on the stairs heading down to see Kim. “That’s my fault,” I mutter to myself. “I didn’t tell her she couldn’t, I asked her a question.”

Soon Kim is awoken by the feeling of Elena’s breath inches from her head.

Published in: on October 12, 2006 at 9:22 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kim was right on the money (maybe one of the local weather men should put her on retainer). I’m sitting here typing some emails, while gazing out the window for inspiration, and what do I see but a substantial flurry of little white flakes falling from the sky!! 1:41 p.m., October 12 in Shaker Heights, OH. Winter has arrived!!

  2. Here’s a link to the USGS map of recent earthquakes in California http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/recenteqs/. USGS also has a map of the earthquake epicenters for Ohio (although note that they are cumulative over years and not days) http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/website/geosurvey/earthquakes/viewer.htm

    Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.

    Danese


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