The maple the morning after being struck by lightning.

Calm after the Storm

Rain to soothe the wearied spirit

By Hilary Berg

As I write this letter, I’m wearing earphones listening to rain — specifically “Rain for Relaxing” by Skate Creek Sounds. I’m doing so to drown out the fourth-grade math instruction happening directly behind me. My son’s Zoom is my concentration’s doom, so to speak.

What better way to distract than rainfall with its soothing nature. I could use some calm, with my mornings recently set ablaze with a frustrated student embarrassed by his mother accidentally drifting into the path of the Chromebook’s camera. How dare I answer the call when assistance is needed?!

The downpour in my ears reminds me of the thunderstorm on Sept. 17 in the Willamette Valley. I’d never witnessed a storm like that in Oregon, not in the two decades I’ve lived here.

Our poor dog, Bluebird, was a mess, whimpering and shaking. Chris, my husband, was pacing, worried the lightning would strike somewhere on the property and ignite a fire.

About 10:30 that night, a solid core of light flashed from the corner of my eye followed by an instantaneous BOOM! I jumped up and looked out the window. I thought for sure I’d see something on fire or a crater in the ground, but I noticed only distant flashes of light. Chris burst into the room, “That was close!” Bluebird was now crawling up my leg.

The next day, Chris was walking up our drive and noticed scattered bits of wood; it was our mason bee log house that hung on the trunk of our maple. It looked like a bomb went off in the middle of it. Peering a little closer, he discovered the base of the tree appeared charred, bark had been stripped in an odd vertical pattern, and the tree now had a crack between the two main limbs. Yellowed leaves fell like confetti.

In all my days growing up in Kansas and living through hundreds of storms, I’d never been this close to a lightning bolt. I also had never felt so grateful for rain, immediately extinguishing the fire and answering the prayers of firefighters battling the blazes raging in the Cascades and elsewhere.

I feel extremely thankful for our stroke of luck, not having to deal with the fire directly; others are not so fortunate. For people like the Denners of Simple Machine Winery in Talent, the wildfires became a true nightmare. As nearby Rogue Valley winemakers and growers rally around the couple, I am, once again, reminded of the caring community that is Oregon wine.

With the smoke cleared and more rain in the forecast, I’m personally feeling much calmer these days, but my mornings are still a bust. My honest goal for the school year is to brave the elements together with as much grace as possible, while keeping the waterworks to a minimum.

Wish us all luck.

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