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COLUMN: Trying to understand storms
New American Gothic

COLUMN: Trying to understand storms

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We were sitting on the porch waiting for the storms to come last Wednesday. We’d been watching the radar during the day as the front rushed through New York state.

I have to say it has been a dry May, and we were hoping for a real downpour.

A few minutes before the expected rain, we put all of the goats in their yard and battened down the poultry pens.

As we were doing this the wind began to gust, blow and gale.

It was a scene out of “The Wizard of Oz.” Stuff was blowing around and up — leaves, hay, feed dishes. In the woods, branches were cracking and falling.

I wish I had a camera so I could take a picture of Maggie in the midst of this tumult pulling the last goat by its tether to the goat yard.

Then the wind stopped. We could see rain coming from the west, and sat down to wait.

After a few minutes a light rain began to fall. We heard thunder to the north and south, and within half an hour the skies began to open up.

It didn’t last. Perhaps we got a quarter-inch of rain. Below the damp surface of the garden, dry as a bone.

We looked at the radar. In the half-hour before the front went through, the storm split in two, keeping us out of the most violent, and wet, portions of the front.

That night, baseball was canceled in New York City. I tossed and turned all night confronting something I could not understand. It was as if that cold front had left something with me to puzzle out.

I never even came close, and still don’t understand.

Whatever teeny, tiny part of me is Native American might have understood better. But, the Carson part of me is hidden under layers and layers of confusion.

I have always loved the comings and goings of summer storms.

My grandmother and I would sit on the porch of her small cottage in Michigan watching the storms come over Clear Lake, sometimes forcing us to seek shelter inside.

Those storms also left something with me in their passing, something that perhaps defied the Plains Indian saying, “A people without history are like wind in the grass.”

The morning after our windstorm, I sat on the porch again. The sky was clear. A pleasant day was in the offing.

As it warmed up, the martins came to fly and swoop around the yard, catching flying insects. Of all the birds, I find their eyes the most impenetrable, so dark, so fixed.

But as usual, they picked up their game. One would swoop down and pick up a piece of duck down. They would in turn pass the light feather from one to another, about 30 feet off the ground. One would grab then let go, allowing the feather to float for a few seconds.

Another would grab and fly away, only to return half a minute later to start the game again.

That’s how my day started the morning after the storm.

Forrest Hartley is watching for rain in Hadley, N.Y. Leave a message at

Forrest Hartley is watching for rain in Hadley, N.Y. Leave a message at


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