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.
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.
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.
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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