3 Jan

tornado road

I have a rather intense fear of tornados. It’s just shy of a phobia, actually. I grew up in the Midwest, where there is actually a period of the year that’s fucking called tornado season. And, knowing full well that I would have to live through said tornado season, year after year at least until I turned eighteen, my parents saw no problem in letting five-year-old-me watch the movie Twister with them. For those of you unfamiliar with this movie, let me provide you with a few sentences from the IMDB plot synopsis:

“The father, in an attempt to save his family, tries to hold the storm cellar door down, but gets sucked into the tornado and killed.”

“The tornado hurls a section of a TV tower through their windshield, impaling Eddie. Both teams watch in horror as Jonas’s truck is lifted up by the tornado and thrown into the ground where it explodes, killing both Eddie and Jonas.”

“They find metal pipes inside this shelter and tie themselves to the pipes with leather belts. The tornado destroys the structure, and they are pulled upside down while anchored to the pipes.”

Happy happy joy joy, right? THIS MOVIE IS FUCKING TERRIFYING! And I was five.

Yeah, little me didn’t have nightmares about monsters. She had nightmares about tornados. These persisted until I moved away for college to beautiful, blessed, tornado-less California. Earthquakes? Not a big deal. Whirling vortex of doom taunting me with the possibility of tearing down my house and killing everyone I love because even meteorologists can’t be completely sure about its path and I therefore have to sit in a cold basement for hours listening to sirens and contemplating my potentially impending death? Yeah, no thanks.

Aaaaanyhoo. My response to those tornado sirens did teach me a fair amount about my priorities. From the time I was five up till I moved out at eighteen, any and every time there were tornado sirens, I moved the things I hoped to give some chance of making it through a tornado down to the basement. Sure, when I was five, those were all basically my stuffed animals. But once I hit eight or so, my priorities shifted. Fluff-stuffed bits of cloth weren’t what gave me comfort and identity anymore.

Words were.

So, once those tornado sirens started to whine, I would move my books.

Well, actually first I would move my dog, because she was a living thing and I was more likely to be able to salvage my books intact from the hypothetical future wreckage than I would my dog. But after my dogs, my books were first. Books and journals too, once I started keeping those regularly enough for them to be a significant container of my soul.

Oh, yeah, of course I was also yelling at my family members to get their butts down to the basement while I shuttled back and forth between there and my room. But my parents and sister, they have legs and situational awareness and could very well get themselves to safety. My journals weren’t going to move themselves.

And so, year after year, with each overly enthusiastic late-summer storm that sent wails through muggy air, I was presented with the terrifying opportunity to figure out what, right then and there, I wanted most in my life to save. What mattered most to me? What did I consider most valuable, most vital?

Well, yes, my dog. But after that, it was the writing in my life. My journals, the words I had set sail on the whispering sea of existence, they were what I had poured my identity into. My books, the voices of the authors and characters that had murmured in my brain through the years, they held memories more than any picture ever could for me. There are years tucked between those pages, pressed into the print by the weight of the covers.

Writing, it is the scrawl of my soul. It is my self-preservation.


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