Pure Luck

“Hang on to me, baby, and let’s hope that the roof stays on.”
— Brownsville Girl, Bob Dylan

Spring in this neck of the woods tends towards the effusive, the overblown. All the time I spent further west, I grieved over missing it each and every year: the tender green of Bradford pears as they begin to leaf out after an excess of blossoms, the gaudy yellow cascade of forsythia, the Ikebana-like branches of flowering quince, flesh pink and thorny. The smell of earth warming and air thick with humidity. Spring can be practically unmanageable around here, and last Friday’s storm is nothing if not evidence of that.

This week, lots of Bradford pears, practically just minutes past their flowering, are either splintered or stacked up on curbs: they may be pretty but they’re weak, and tend to give up the ghost during rough weather. Not more than spitting distance from our house, chain link is still hung with insulation blown there by the wind, and the air is full of the bite and roar of chain saws. The Weather Channel… I heard one construction worker say to the other as I drove slowly yesterday morning, window rolled down, through Cabbagetown, the neighborhood that lies between ours and Younger Girleen’s preschool. Overhead, the sky’s a lovely ceramic blue, and later on, when I short-cut back through the neighborhood three blocks further east, there’s not a single shred of evidence that anything untoward even happened. I mean, there are mattresses stacked up on the curb but that’s because somebody got evicted a week or so before, not because of any kind of weather.

And what were we doing when the storm hit? Elder Girleen was at a sleepover at a friend’s house, Younger Girleen was sleeping, and the Husband and I were sitting in front of the living room window, having the following debate, having just seen a crawl at the bottom of the television screen announcing a tornado warning:

There’s nothing about a storm on the radio…
Maybe it’s a mistake?
Fulton’s a big county… maybe it means North Fulton?
Is that a plane?
That’s not a plane…
I think that’s wind…

I may be Texas-born, but I grew up here: I ought to know enough to head for the basement during a tornado warning. But I was in my nightgown and the basement’s nowhere you want to hang out unless you’re in a haz-mat suit; it happened fast; we didn’t know.

Luck. A small word, overused. “That was lucky.” “Good luck!” But there’s nothing like driving down a street to see one house, serene, unscathed, and that the two flanking it and across the street are now sprouting hundred-year-old oak trees from their roof lines to make you think about the thin divide between things: good luck, bad luck, there’s just a few short blocks between the two, a few tricks of the wind.

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