The Efficacious Finger
Nobody needs an early morning weather report from some Nutty Bubba, but it’s four o’clock and pitch black dark out here on the north shore of St. Andrew Bay, humid with a slight cool breeze, looking from east to west and south, and now and then a flash of lightning way out over the Gulf of Mexico.
Could that be, it seems too clear, stars in the sky, no clouds. But yep, there it is again. Sure enough, the map of the Gulf on my iPad’s Titan program shows a long east-west cloud with a spot of yellow-orange in the trailing west end of it, a hundred miles south of me and moving southeast toward Tampa: could I really see lightning from a cloud that far away?
What stirs in memory about distance out here is a rainy night, in my upstairs front bedroom with the windows and door open and a radio on, nothing but sea between me and Cancun, listening to the weather report of a hurricane forty-five miles south of Panama City and moving westward. That would have been in the middle nineteen-nineties, after my father died.
A couple years before that, August 1992 it would have been, eh, a similar experience enjoying a week’s vacation in friends’ Gulf-front house on St. George Island. The friends were seasonal parishioners from Pittsburgh, he an architect, very generous with us about using the beach house. Worrying about Nicholas, watching the driving rain as Hurricane Andrew moved into South Florida and crossed into the Gulf of Mexico, and barreled toward New Orleans. Our friend Jocelyn died that week after years struggle with breast cancer, as I watched the rain. And dreaded the week’s passing, because it was coming up time to take Tass to Baltimore for her flight to London and college year abroad. Sitting out here in the dark this morning, it all returns, specific feelings as I watched the plane lift from the runway. Nothing in my life has been as wrenching as my transitions into the next stages in the life of daughter.
My scientific observation is that hurricanes are generated when a TV star meteorologist turns officiously to a weather map of the Atlantic or Gulf, touches fingertips to a harmless blob, and makes a counter-clockwise circling motion. That’s what gets a hurricane started, statistics prove it. As I live and breathe and witness.