I awaken in the early morning to the sound of steady rain on the roof. Getting up to check on the windows, I see a sheen of water on the floor near my office: we have a leak. We must call the roofer when they open for business.
But even the prospect of so costly an inconvenience cannot outweigh the deep primordial satisfaction of the sound. To be inside when it's pouring outside. To lie in bed, safe and dry, while rain pours from the heavens. Little rivers border the street outside, rushing toward the storm drains so that they may begin their journey to the sea. The tires of passing cars splash as they go by in the dark. The birds, usually halfway through their song list by now, seem to have taken the morning off, and the cats are nowhere to be seen.
This rain is the periphery of Hurricane Bill. Thus far, it has been a quiet season -- mid-August, and we haven't gotten past Bill. Carla has formed, but she doesn't seem likely to amount to much. I don't know what name has been chosen for the next one. David? I think they used David already. Douglas? Dirk? Dwight?
The naming of hurricanes fascinated me when I was little. Hazel is the first hurricane in my memory. Since I knew there to be such a thing as witch hazel, it seemed to me that this great storm was also a witch, riding the heavens on her broom, shrieking her terrible anger at us and hurling thunderbolts to the ground. Nature seemed frighteningly personal then, enormously powerful and aimed right at our little house. I was afraid.
My father took me out on the front porch. See, he said, pointing at the road in front of our house. The raindrops are rows of marching men on parade. And suddenly that's just what they were: rank on rank of soldiers, passing in review before us. Immediately I felt better: my father was a marching man himself. The army had arrived. We watched the parade for a long time, a tiny girl and her father, his strong arm around me. The storm was mighty, but I knew I was safe.
We hope that we can domesticate nature. We give it a human name. We try to cut it down to size, to find ways to convince ourselves that nature is like us, a tameable version of ourselves. But we know the truth: nature is huge. Nature is bigger than we are, and it holds all the cards.