In a change to our regularly scheduled program . . . . .
We were frightened witless last night. Well I was. Himself was stoic. We picked the wrong day to take the travel trailer out of storage and head in any direction from Phoenix. Thunderstorms, high winds, flash floods, hail and wild fires abound in the rest of the state.
Sheet lightning lit the distant mountains we could see from our apartment balcony and had provided entertainment every night for a week. But there had been no rain, no thunder and only a light wind.
Just seven miles up the road from our built up town we towed the trailer into the county park with panoramic desert and mountain views in every direction. A coyote greeted us as we drove around the campground, indicated which site he thought best, then gathered his mates in the dense scrub and sang a welcome chorus.
Shortly after we unhitched and shut ourselves into the air-conditioned trailer for the evening the lightning started. I opened all the blinds to watch. Black skies advanced and forked lightning flashed to the east. The sunset, to the west of course, was glorious with bold stripes of gold, pink and white and it lit half the cloudy evening sky in a seductive dusky pink.
The wind suddenly picked up and gave us a little shake. Jimmy and I glanced at each other but didn’t speak. The looks said uh-oh.
The sunset disappeared under impenetrable black clouds. Forked and sheet lightning flashed in every direction, rain battered down and we were thrust violently side to side by the wind. Thunder began to rumble and then hail crashed down on our poor little box home.
“Did you wind the steadies tight?”
“Of course,” said himself, slightly offended. Corner jacks in England are called steadies. They’re called that for a reason. “I think I’ll go and tighten them again if this ever stops.”
We sat, away from the windows – all of three feet, and stared at each other not voicing our thoughts. I wondered if we could blow over. Should we have stayed hitched up to the truck for extra stability? Could a gust blow the truck and trailer both over? The gas was on low under our gently thawing dinner. Should I turn it off? Would it blow up if we blew over?
Rain pounded us and created leaks we’d never had in three-and-a-half years on the road.
“I wonder how long the electricity will stay on? That,” said Jimmy, mopping water off the floor in front of the fridge, “is coming right through the fuse box.” He could have kept that thought to himself. If we lived through the storm we’d gently steam, like our dinner, all night without the benefit of air conditioning. The desert can be cold at night, but not here. Not in August. “Maybe we should go home.”
“I don’t like to leave the trailer with all our things in it.” After last-minute trailer repairs in the morning, we’d spent all afternoon packing up, carting stuff and loading the trailer in 100+º heat. There was no question of hitching up in wild weather and if we did, nowhere to park the trailer at our apartment complex. We could only sprint to the truck and abandon the trailer to the storm.
In my tired and fractured state of mind it seemed better to sit tight with my things and get blown over with them than to sleep safely in our apartment. Just seven miles down the road.
The wind and rain, lightning and thunder raged on. The sudden buffeting gusts were the most unnerving. Our whole tiny world was shaking as though we were in an earthquake. I tried not to think about a lightning strike. The high ground site the coyote chose for us had afforded good views, but apart from two saguaros and one twiggy tree our roof was the highest point for some considerable distance.
We did the only sensible thing given our vulnerable position. We closed the blinds and opened a bottle of wine.
I’m sensing some judgment. So what would you have done?
Please click to enlarge pictures.
A beautiful desert sunrise. No, I did not go out in the wind, rain, hail, thunder and lightning to take a photo of the sunset the night before.
The desert sands washed completely across the road. More wild weather to come? Looks like it!
We survived the night!
Four Peaks – a different view than from our balcony.
The morning after.
The next morning I read an email from a friend in England asking how we got on as we’d been messaging the day before. My reply:
Exciting evening. Terrific thunderstorm. Trailer shook till our teeth rattled. Lightning in every direction. Battering rain, then hail. Thought we were going to blow over. Other than that, ok.
P.S. Sign on ladies loo, “Please keep door closed. Snakes are out.”
You may recall that what seems moments ago we were on the east coast in the last post in a place with a remarkable lack of saguaro cactuses. (If you are still judging me, the plural in Latin is cacti. Cactuses is ,are?, acceptable in English.)
That was then. This is now. All was revealed in The Confession. We will return to our regularly scheduled program on the east coast. Unless something else hair-raising happens out west in the meantime.
“Ooo! I’ve got to stop here. Turn around. Turn around,” I said like an overexcited eight year old. “Just five minutes. I’m not going to buy anything.” Who would believe that? Not Jimmy, obviously as a huge sigh escaped from him, but he did turn around and pull up to The Largest Gift Shop in Kentucky.
“Don’t leave me out here too long to sweat to death in the car,” he ordered.
“You could come in.”
“No,” he said emphatically. I knew he’d say that.
On entering the shop a disembodied voice asked, “Do I know you?” There didn’t seem to be anyone there and I made the mistake of turning around to try to make eye contact through heavily stocked glass shelves of rocks, gems and jewellery.
“No-o-o-o,” I said to the shelves.
“Have I seen you before?” was her ploy. I peered to see her, surrounded as she was by trinkets stacked high. Although she was seated naturally enough behind the counter, it was as though she had positioned herself at a secret vantage point hidden from the door. As I homed in on the voice I could see long grey hair tightly coiled and pinned flat to her head, an intricate hairdo that said I’m unconventional.
“No,” I answered when I’d given her a good look.
“Have you been here before?” she asked with a quizzical look on her face.
“Have you been to Kentucky before?” she persevered, perplexed that she couldn’t place me.
“No,” I said emphatically, but thinking I’d take part in her game.
“Where are you from?”
“Baltimore.” I said in my best clipped English accent, to throw her off the scent, not sure I should be telling her anything.
She was persistent. “Have you or any member of your family worked for the government?”
“No. Well, yes. The military. Not me, but my family.” Accurate I thought, but brief, wondering where this was going.
“I knew it! That’s the connection! I knew that!” What connection? At this point I didn’t know whether to continue or start backing away, but I stood my ground, smiling tightly at her.
She was well practiced at her art. “Are you a spiritual person?”
Umm. Dunno. I guess so. “Yes.”
“Do you believe in The Lord?” There it is! She had me hook, line and sinker. The hook was the government employee question. They’re the largest employer in the country so between myself and my family I was bound to say yes, but she made herself sound intuitive. The line was the spiritual question. She’d piqued my interest and could see she’d started to reel me in. The sinker was The Lord but as her tiny eyes beamed fervently at me from her sweet, pudgy face I didn’t have the heart to cut and run.
“Were you brought up Catholic?”
Wrong step. One in three people in the United States were brought up Catholic but she came up empty with this bit of fishing. “No.” Economical answer again. Not giving anything away. Go fish.
“What religion were you brought up with?”
Baptist, but I’m not telling you that. “Protestant.”
Now sensing my reluctance she said, “I’m a spiritual person but I don’t believe in any one religion. Religions have caused a lot of problems. And because of the sins of the flesh, God made childbirth ten times more painful and gave the desire to men. Look at all the problems that has caused.
Where did that come from?
“Have you felt since you were a little girl that you are here for a purpose?” I’d taken a step back at this point, uncomfortable with the whole encounter. Goose bumps popped up on my arms and in my mind she morphed into Medusa,
her coiled hair turning into snakes. “The Lord has a very special purpose for you. You need to communicate with The Lord and He will reveal his purpose to you. I don‘t want you telling me what I need to do. “I knew you were a spiritual person. I could see it in your face, in your eyes. Well, just behind your eyes.”
I‘m trying to picture what is behind my eyes and it is my brain saying get me out of here. “You are a spiritual and very open-minded person. As long as you are open-minded you will learn.” I can go along with that but I’m not going to discuss it with you.
Hearing a slight finality to her comment I rushed in with, “It’s been nice to talk to you,” and retreated. I don’t know why I felt the need to stop, listen and be polite. Perhaps I had been drawn into her spiritual world as her eyes locked onto mine and with mesmeric guile she had rooted my feet to the ground. Had she looked into my eyes and hypnotized me? I couldn’t recall anything of my surroundings after she started to speak except for staring intently at her moist, doughy face, piggy eyes and serpentine hairdo. It was quite a surreal experience – a little spooky and a little comical; I was truly wanting to step away and yet leaning forward the whole time.
“Have a look around. If you see anything you like, I’ll work with you on the price.” I won’t be buying anything. I just wanted to leave and once the spell was broken I took a cursory look round the shop and left. As I stepped over the threshold I pictured the serpents on her head coming alive, her eyes rolling back and sinking into their sockets, her tongue extruding in a black twist to reach across the room and snare me. I only dared say goodbye when one foot was firmly outside and I was pulling the door behind me. I did not break stride. The “connection” wasn’t completely severed until I closed the door and stepped into the sunlight of a balmy Kentucky afternoon. I will only discuss religion on my own terms. And I won’t go back to that shop.
Later in a post office, in a conversation with the clerk about our accents and origins and Jimmy felt he could ask her if there was anywhere nearby we could buy wine. She had just started to shake her head no when Jimmy said, “It’s just beer or whisky here, isn’t it?”
She continued to shake her head no and laughed, “Moonshine!” and we joined in her laughter.
Call me shallow. I’m more comfortable with that kind of casual conversation.
Have you ever had a spell put on you?
And can you read the moonshine recipe on that barrel?