It Was a Dark and Stormy Day

For years it was a recurring nightmare: a storm was coming, and it was coming specifically for me. What plans it had for me, what might happen to me if and when it successfully caught me, I never learned.

(What is the number, how many appearances in one’s psyche does it take for one to realize or decide that a dream is a “recurring” one? I do not often write about dreams because they are too private; I will almost certainly fail in any attempt to bring you into my head, and who wants to visit that strange inner land, anyway?)

Sometimes it was a snowstorm and sometimes a summer thunderstorm; the dream never adhered to the actual season we were in. I was always in my apartment and there was nothing I could do and no place I could escape to …

From 2000 till 2005 I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is a great mid-sized city and to this day it is the only city in which I have lived. I have only resided in small towns, suburbs, and remote cabins before and since.

Below is a photo of my former apartment building. The Roosevelt was built in the 1920s (so it was named for Theodore) and was for a time one of Cedar Rapids’ two tallest buildings; it remains a part of the skyline. It began life as a ritzy hotel and is now an apartment and office building. I have circled “my” three windows on the fifth floor; the middle window and one to its right were my living room, and the window on the left was my bedroom window. There were corner apartments on either side. These are large windows, which is important for the anecdote; the windowsill was at thigh height and the top of the windows was at the ceiling, and these apartments had 10-foot ceilings.

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

From my fifth floor vantage point, I gazed south-ish upon the roof of the bank across the street, a three-story tall building, and the other neighboring buildings. Three blocks away, the city’s tallest building loomed, a 20-plus-story apartment tower that I set foot in precisely once. Four blocks away, the Cedar River flowed by; my street, First Avenue, is one of three downtown streets that cross that river.

The Roosevelt in the red circle. You are several blocks northeast, behind my building, but this gives a sense of my vantage point. (Click to enlarge.)

The Roosevelt in the red circle. You are several blocks northeast, behind my building, but this gives a sense of my vantage point. (Click to enlarge.)

I moved in in July 2000 and started to have weather-obsessed nightmares by August. I do not know why. The Midwestern sky is different from the skies I have always known, and storms, largely unslowed by hills or trees for hundreds of miles, whip through the region. The first topic of conversation most people brought up with me had to do with the weather and the dangers of not heeding the signs of a tornado. In the spring and fall, there were weekly tornado alarms. Someone said something to me about seeing colors in the storm clouds: basically, if you see colors in the clouds, any colors at all, seek shelter immediately.

The above paragraph may explain the reason why I started to have weather-obsessed nightmares. The local network affiliates interrupted any and all programs with news of approaching storms. That fact probably explains it, as well.

In my dream, I would see the Iowa Realty Tower, four blocks away, disappear as it was surrounded by a dark gray storm cloud as the cloud made its way north toward my building, as it made its way north toward my windows, as it made its way north to me. In the dream, I frenetically rush from window to window, fight to close the tall windows and drop the blinds, but too late. In one dream, the storm clouds actually penetrated into my apartment, fingered around the blinds.

Spooky, huh?

In the spring of 2003, it finally happened. I was out running errands and I saw colors in the dark grey storm clouds. A greenish-yellow, just like hate. I rushed home and dropped my grocery bags in my foyer and there in front of me, out my window, was the very storm cloud I had had nightmares about. It began to surround the Iowa Realty building as it crossed the Cedar River and proceeded north towards my building, my window, me. I actually started shaking.

It pelted the windows with hail and hard rain, as storms do, and then moved past. It was a strong enough storm that it in fact generated a tornado, as per everyone’s warnings about colors in the clouds. It was the first tornado to touch down in downtown Cedar Rapids in decades, as tornadoes do not easily form among tall buildings. Thus it was a tiny tornado, cute even, but a tornado nonetheless. It touched down in an empty parking lot.

After seeing one of my nightmares in real life, I never had that particular nightmare again.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 2 asks, “The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?”

And please visit and participate in the Alterna-Prompt, “The Blog Propellant,” which asks us today, “Write a story of any length either inspired by the Victor Hugo quote below, or something about ‘the mountains, the forest and the sea.'” The Hugo quote: “Cities produce ferocious men because they create corrupt men; the mountains, the forest, and the sea render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human.” The passage is from “Les Misérables,” just before Jean Valjean is sentenced to five years’ hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. I thought of this anecdote, in which I watched nature barge into civilization as well as my psyche, and either it or my psyche wound up tamed.

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  1. LRose · December 2, 2015

    Great story Mark. It even resonates with all sorts of fictional possibility. Hmmmm…might have to task one of your fiction-writer followers with creating a story based on it…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pleasant Street · December 2, 2015

    I have many nightmares. I hope they don’t come to life


  3. loisajay · December 2, 2015

    I just love a good storm, I really do! I love them so much that I slept through one of the worst hurricanes we have ever had here in sunny FL. Yeah, I’d be staring out those windows…..and then fall asleep. No help from me, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. abodyofhope · December 2, 2015

    We have many tornadoes here in my area as well. They give you that feeling your earthly things could be gone in an instant… which is true, even without tornadoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The mood, the moods, the moodies. | The Hempstead Man
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  8. rogershipp · December 5, 2015

    Second try to comment. Apologies if this is a repeat!

    Stormy dreams can be caused by many things. I just discovered- from DRACULA, the novel- that paprika can cause evil dreams. I googled to check it out and apparently it is a fact?

    I had been have ‘evil’ dream for two weekends in a row…. Deviled eggs ‘might have been’ the cause…. I load them with a covering of paprika!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: A Dream Come True | The Gad About Town

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