Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I didn't see the time, I waited half my life away . . . Waiting for the miracle to come. ~Leonard Cohen

The weather forecasters had been telling us all week to expect a big storm on Saturday evening. It was going to hit right around dinner time and was to be the storm of the decade, if not beyond. It was the remnants of a typhoon that had made its way across the Pacific Ocean from Japan, winds were going to be in excess of 60 mph., and we were advised to make sure our emergency kits were up to date.

This was actually one of three major storms headed our way, a Friday, Saturday, Tuesday succession that I worried was going to impede the departure of folks who had travelled from Greece, Iceland, Australia, Canada, and the UK to take part in last week's International Play Iceland conference here in Seattle. Friday's storm hit us just as forecasted, a wet, wet atmospheric river that flowed through the city without much wind. It had been so wet that for the first time in Woodland Park history, we cut our outside time short by 15 minutes because some of our two-year-olds were so saturated they were shivering.

To be honest, I was looking forward to the big one on Saturday. Naturally, I didn't want anyone to be hurt and I wasn't rooting for major property damage, but I've always been drawn to nature's power. When visiting the Midwest for a family reunion, my daughter and I more than once rushed out into thunderstorms (a rare phenomenon in the Pacific NW), making the cousins think we were crazy. Sometimes we would dress from head to toe in our best rain gear and drive over to West Seattle to stand in a spot where storm waves could crash over us. My girl now off the college, my plan for this storm was to just sit in the living room and watch it through the windows.

The timing couldn't have been better for our international guests, all of whom either made it out ahead of the impending storm or weren't scheduled to leave until the following day. It was a successful conference, and I enjoyed helping to host, but as you might imagine, I had awoken on Friday feeling the full effects of the "let down" that often follows a much anticipated event. For weeks I'd been losing sleep over the duties and responsibilities of being the host of something like this. It wasn't as if there was a lot for me to do exactly, because the Play Iceland team was on top of things, but I had nevertheless become increasingly consumed with the process of waiting for the all those visitors to arrive for a week in my hometown.

On Saturday morning, the conference behind me, I stayed in my PJs until noon, a luxury I'd not had for several weeks, reveling in what I felt was well-earned exhaustion, but the whole time I was aware that the big storm was on its way, just as I'd been aware for weeks that the conference was on its way.  In the afternoon I pulled myself together and went to the store for bottled water, extra flashlight batteries, four kinds of cheese, a big box of crackers, cans of tuna, and a few other items that I felt would help my wife and I weather the storm should we lose power. We were being warned to be prepared for power outages that lasted days, not hours.

And then I sat in my living room and waited. I made sure our electronic devices were fully charged. I did a load of laundry. I ate some of our more perishable food for lunch. But mostly I sat in my living room anticipating the storm by following its progress on the internet. I watched impressive video of it hitting first the Oregon coast and then, moving northward, the Washington coast. Locally, things were still. Blue sky still occasionally peaked through the clouds. One forecaster said it was "the classic calm before the storm."

My wife was waiting with me. We began snacking from our storm supplies, especially the cheese. Those final hours were almost like a countdown. I could hear a few people outside going about their Saturday evening business. At 6:30 p.m., when the storm was supposed to hit, a few of the trees started moving a bit more animatedly and the sky darkened a bit -- of course, that might have been my imagination as well. I stood in the living room window for the next 15 minutes, watching for the storm, waiting for it. I began to worry that maybe we had eaten too much of our storm supplies. I wondered if I had time to rush back to the store to replace them. Fifteen more minutes passed and then it started.

Within seconds the winds went from nothing to a rage accompanied by driving, sideways rain that swept the street in waves. I saw a man on a bicycle struggling to ride into the wind before finally dismounting. A couple with an umbrella were pushed back across the street they were attempting to cross and blown into a doorway. How could they not have known about the storm? Didn't they know they might be stuck in that doorway for hours?

I stood in the open window, elbows on the sill, listening to the sound, feeling the intense, damp wind on my forearms. Within minutes the entire intersection below my apartment was several inches deep in water, a flood that caused brave/foolish pedestrians to detour nearly half a block to cross the street. This was what we had been promised. It's what I'd been waiting for this past week, this past day, these past few hours. Indeed, I realized as the storm raged, it was, at least in part, what I'd been living for.

And then, after 10 minutes, as suddenly as it had started, it was over. For awhile I figured that there must be another wave coming, that perhaps the storm was just turning and would rotate back over us in a few minutes, but wait as I might, it never came. After a half hour, I let myself believe it was over. The internet told me that part of the Eastlake neighborhood had lost power. When I went out to walk the dog an hour later, I found a couple of branches down, and the flooded intersection had already drained.

When as children we had wished it was Christmas morning, Mom would caution us, "Don't wish your life away." I thought of that in the mini-storm's aftermath, in the aftermath of my week as a host. What had I missed in my waiting? I could see in the clarity left behind after that short, dousing storm all the minutes, hours, and days I'd lost in the posture of waiting for the miracle to come, no doubt missing the unanticipated miracles that each moment holds.

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