(Author’s note: Yesterday there were tornadoes in Kentucky, today we’ve got snow and ice. Like everyone else, I’m starting to feel the strain of constantly being chilled to the bone and interminable shades of gray. So, I decided to take my own advice and count my blessings. I wrote this column for the local paper back in 2008. Hope you enjoy it.)
Tornadoes, Snow Storms and Ducks on Ice
Every now and then, our world turns upside down. We are yanked out of our personal comfort zone and forced into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with our own mortality. We all, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, walk a fine line – the razor’s edge of existence – with every single breath we take. Perhaps it is some primal survival instinct that keeps us from dwelling on this, some intrinsic coping mechanism that urges us to quickly process traumatic events and then resume our everyday routine as soon as possible. We spare little, if any, time to ponder the tenuous nature of our time on this earth. But…every now and then…our Creator reaches down, bips us upside the head and commands our attention.
We all accept that Kentucky weather is predictable in its unpredictability. When 700 temperatures plummet to 300 within a day’s time we just shake our head, roll our eyes and wonder why we even bothered to put the long underwear back in the dresser drawer. But to see the wreckage from one week’s tornadoes covered by inch-thick ice the next week must surely give pause to even the most stoic among us. This is not just “Kentucky weather”. This is a stark reminder of how capricious the Fates can be, how what we often take for granted can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.It gets a little festive on my beloved hill the Tuesday night the tornadoes hit. For the last few weeks, we have been in some sort of weird pattern in which every Tuesday brings severe weather. Although the previous Tuesday’s winds seem to have howled a bit louder, it becomes evident that this Tuesday’s storm means business. Brief, fervent pleas tumble from my lips each time the house shakes, and even the cats deign to join the dogs and me as we huddle in the bathroom. When it is all over, a few tree limbs are the only damage on my farm. The house withstands the onslaught, the barn and the horses are fine, so I offer a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving and go to bed. After seeing the enormous property damage done throughout the county, it really hits me that it’s only by the good Lord’s grace that no one was killed. More prayer then, and grateful wonder at the mercy shown to all.
That’s what it comes down to really, doesn’t it? It’s all about finding those grateful moments. In the dark times a little extra effort might be required, but if you keep at it, focus on finding even one thing to be thankful for, gratitude gets a little easier each day. The coolest part is, even the smallest benevolence can produce sizeable joy; ducks on ice, for instance.
On the first gray, dreary morning after the ice storm I dread going out, but my critters are first priority so I bundle up and gingerly make my way out onto the porch. The ducks immediately start clamoring to be let out of their pen, and thus begins one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. The minute I open the gate, they stampede out like they usually do. Instead of slapping across grass, however, their little webbed feet hit a solid sheet of ice. This is closely followed by their little feathered bottoms hitting the ice. I can almost hear “The Blue Danube Waltz” playing in the background; Da da da da dum (Splat! Quack! Splat! Quack!), da da da da dum (Splat! Quack! Splat! Quack!). Gospel truth, I laugh until I literally have tears in my eyes. The ducks seem to take offense at my helpless laughter, glaring at me as if their lack of traction is my fault.
After that the day seems a little brighter and a bit warmer. My burdens, whether real or imagined, feel much lighter. Each remembrance of that moment will bring laughter and thanks to God for a hilarious mercy shown on a dismal winter morning.
It’s ok to feel sorry for yourself sometimes. Go ahead and have a pity party, but make it a short one. Then find something, even the tiniest little thing, that makes you smile. Blessings aren’t that hard to find, and even a little bit of gratitude goes a long way.