Stormy weather brings with it a mixture of magic and fear, as Jen, three-quarters of the way through her second pregnancy, explains.

I walked out of the house this morning to something most unexpected and pleasant. There was actually a touch of cool in the air. It wasn't the kind of cool that assures me that fall is on the way (I don't expect that break to happen for another two or three weeks at least) but it was enough to notice. Gone was the wet thickness of the air that we've had for months. The sky was slightly overcast but I had the feeling that even if the sun broke through - which it did later - it would still be a particularly pleasant day. It was.

There's a hurricane churning off the coast, some four hours drive away, and that is what has brought this change in the weather. And so once again I have mixed feelings about a region's weather peculiarities.

Growing up in Arizona, I remember the sense that would come over me when a dust storm was on it's way. It was visceral at first, then the sky would turn yellow, and we'd head indoors for an hour or so until the storm passed. I always considered these storms somewhat magical, although I knew that with them came danger. If someone was driving on the highway, there were specific procedures to be followed to stay safe.

Later, I was more entranced by the summer monsoons. Before I left Arizona, I spent a summer working in a downtown high rise. I would watch the storms roll in off the desert to pound one part or another of the valley with ten minutes of torrential rain before tumbling off back to desert. They often left some bits or another of atmosphere encouraging startling sunsets in vivid hues, beyond even the "normal" beautiful sunsets people associate with the southwest. I identified with the 1982 John Cassavettes movie, Tempest - when Cassavettes' character stands at the window of his Manhattan penthouse during a thunderstorm taunting the forces of nature to change his life. "Show me the magic," he says, aware of the power and the danger. Like sandstorms, the monsoons brought danger. The rains overwhelmed the meager drainage system and swift moving rivers developed everywhere in instants. They could carry you away before you realized what was happening.

When I lived in New England, I felt similarly about their storms. Mostly, I focused on snowstorms because they were such a novelty. I loved the quiet of snowfall and the playful romping. Actually making snowpeople and snow angels. Then, in a few days when the storm has passed but the snow remains, the crystal clear but bitter cold nights when the sky seems fragile enough to shatter. This, of course, before I ever attempted a commute in a snowstorm, or in the residue of a storm. That experience woke me to the inherent risks in the beautiful but icy precipitation. Still I loved the quiet wonder of a snowfall.

Also in New England, the few Nor'easters I experienced almost put me into trances while watching news coverage. I marveled at seas so high and winds so swift and the interesting way they developed. Of course, the destructive element of Nor'easters was more blatant. And then there were the hurricanes that made their way up the eastern seaboard.

Hurricane Gloria hit while I was in college, and my most vivid memory from that is the hurricane party we went to that evening, after the eye had well passed. Because I was in a rather protected place when the full force of the storm hit, I didn't understand the true impact as well as I might have. The experience was a novelty to me, and the only thing I could relate it to was watching the monsoons roll by and their beautiful wake. Hurricane Bob made me pause because it hit the area in which my husband and I were married. As I watched on television as the hurricane gates closed in New Bedford harbor, I felt something different this time. There was a more personal connection the week after Bob passed and we went down to help with some cleanup. Sailboats on roads is a sight I will never forget. Nor are the pictures of our quiet memories lashed with fury.

Now that I live in an area somewhat prone to regular hurricanes, as much as a part of me wants to hold onto the magical feelings about weather, the mom in me regularly monitors the weather channel for updates and checks the emergency supplies to see that we have what we need. The balance of magic and fear has shifted in fear's favor. I rehearse scenarios in my head. How would I get to Aaron of he were at school and I at work? How could I make sure my whole family is safe, or as safe as possible? If the drop in barometric pressure where to somehow affect this pregnancy, what would we do? Get to the hospital somehow, risking the roads, or what? Given the number of contractions I have had already, it's not such a far-fetched idea at 30 weeks gestation. I guess that stash of emergency supplies should also include some items that might be handy in childbirth. Thank goodness my husband is a doctor and has actually delivered a few babies, even if it was years ago in medical school.

Maybe fear is not the right word. Maybe it's respect for the weather - and other forces of nature, like childbearing - that I am learning after all this time. It's an appropriate kind of respect to have for something so beyond our control or understanding. But now that the lesson about respect for the forces of nature have finally sunk in, I hope I can pull out some of the kid in me and teach my sons just a little about the magic,


recommended for you