by Mimi Hedl

A week has passed since the tornado roared by the summer kitchen, me with the covers over my head, like a scared little girl, trying to hide from the monster in the closet. My son-in-law has gently scolded me for not going down to the root cellar, or at least inside the house, into the bathroom, and waiting until calm returned. I assured him I had no time to run down to the root cellar, the wind would have carried me away. Maybe I should have gone inside, but I witnessed, on a lesser scale, the beginning of the universe.

From under the covers, in the darkness of early, early morning, I heard the freight train coming directly for me. Although I trembled and curled into the fetal position, no thoughts ran through my mind, I simply surrendered. Or maybe one thought did pass through my consciousness; the energy I felt must’ve been what swirled about when the universe came into existence. For that I trembled in awe.

After the tornado passed, I fell back to sleep, not waking until neighbors knocked on my door to see if I survived the night. They told me of all the trees that came down on Strawdog, on the county road and on their property, and I felt grateful for my life. In thirty-five years, we never came face to face with a tornado.

And so the clean-up began. My love, and need, for order destroyed, I made piles of dead branches and green branches. The dry ones I can burn soon, the green I’ll add to the brush piles as they burn. So much brush. So much bending. This will take weeks and weeks. The great-great grand daddy tree, thrust into the earth like a tooth pick, made an arch I can walk under, mow under, until this fall, when someone has time to take it apart, piece by piece. The top of that red oak covers half of the quarter-acre garden, where Kuan-yin stands. The landscape turned topsy-turvy.

The exhaustion that comes with a natural disaster, or any kind of crisis, attempts to subvert my good nature. I go slowly, concentrating on weeding one plot at a time, preparing one seed bed, planting beans and melons, trying not to look at what I have no control over. All in good time, all in good time, I repeat, ad nauseam. Those simple words keep my sanity in check. How do people in war-torn countries survive? I notice more news stories about people dealing with disasters, or I pay more attention to those stories. At one time or another, we all deal with one plague or another; some seem hit harder than others. Sigh.

The Flanders poppies bloom. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row…” They bloom with larkspur and milk thistle all in happy reverie. The bees busily work the pollen until the flowers look worked over with loving attention.

A common yellow-throated warbler came to the front door. It had injured a foot. I snuggled it in the red honeysuckle, hoping he would heal and fly on.

Then a flat-nosed skink and his friend basked on the summer kitchen, not caring that I came within a few inches. The sun felt divine.

And the Indian pinks bloom in profusion, multiplying many times over in another meadow area. First I planted one, and now I see dozens and dozens. Glory be to the flowers. My peace and equilibrium will return, for now, I feel grateful for quiet moments.