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On a Tornado

April 27, 2017

But every story
has some current of air
threaded through it— breath,
gale, storm & ours:


The Tornadic Winds
of War.


-  Amanda Oaks, Shake your Love



The world knows of only two people who have ever been in the eye of a tornado and survived: two farmers in their fields, one in 1928, the other in 1951.


A screaming, hissing sound.


A circular opening in the center of the funnel, extending straight upward for a distance of at least one half mile.


The walls of this opening were of rotating clouds and the whole was made brilliantly visible by constant flashes of lightning, which zigzagged from side to side. Around the lower rim of the great vortex small tornadoes were constantly forming and breaking away.


But inside, silence,


Everything was still as death.


Then the tornadoes overhead carried on, and all that remained was calm.


With World War II looming in the spring of 1939, the British government commissioned a series of propaganda posters to prepare, motivate, and guide the population in the face of the challenges to come. The first read:


‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory,’


just before the storm hit. Then it did, loud as an air raid, sharp as the shrapnel flying around. The second slogan bore the words:


‘Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might.’


Bolt your doors. Board your windows. Keep your loved ones inside. Make sure your priorities and papers are in order. Brace yourself. Here it comes.


The British never saw the last slogan, the most sobering and perhaps most true of the three. Drafted for the sole purpose of being used in times of crisis or invasion, it said:


‘Keep Calm And Carry On.’


In case of invasion, in case of war. In case of loss of cabin pressure, fire, flood. In case life gives you pain, grief. Do not panic. Remain calm. Put your oxygen mask over your face. Attend to those you can help. Walk, do not run, to the nearest exit. Carry on.


The Book of Ecclesiastes says: ‘There is a time to live, to die, to build, to destroy, to love, to hate.’ The times have been feeling quite stormy, lately, but tornadoes are just weather. Keep calm.


Tornadoes are just weather and the bigger they are, the quieter the space in their eyes. ‘A stillness in the midst of chaos, which characterizes prayer too;’ the sky above is always clear, if you can just look up.


Keep Calm then and - here comes the challenge - Carry On with your life. There is bread to be baked, coffee to be brewed. There are children to be walked to school. Do not be distracted by the wind and rain outside, the bombs falling on the world. In your own, instill order with intention, attention to every detail.


Attend to the flowers on your windowsill. Turn them to face the sun. Attend to tucking the bed sheets under the mattress right. Steep your tea for three full minutes. Savor the first sip, and the last. Attend to your home, your garden, your words, thoughts, actions. Those, you can control.


Keep calm and dab a little pink on your cheeks, a little red on your lips. A spray of perfume on the neck, or two. Walk, do not run, through the storm. This is your hand; Carry on.


Carry on till you no longer can, then in the evening, rest. Lie on the soft sheets, the windows cracked open to let the cool air in. Tomorrow the tornado may have passed. Tomorrow it may have not. Tomorrow, either way, your world will be calm and you will carry on.



For you Pap.

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