by Melinda Goedeke
A woman and her child sit tightly together in their stranded car hoping and praying help is on its way. Snowflake after snowflake rapidly envelopes the car until it cannot move at all. Nearly out of gas, the car remains off, and they snuggle trying to stay warm with their body heat. Every few minutes, the child peeks out the window hoping to see something, some means of rescue. Nothing comes. They wait. They hope. With their bodies shaking, their minds spinning and their toes barely wiggling, they huddle together and whisper stories to help escape from reality. Help does arrive, and they are given food and blankets and of course, a tow. They had made it out of the blizzard, this time. Together holding hands ready to face reality again.
Lights flicker as the hail pounds the pavement denting cars and leaving a path of destruction. The winds howl as they watch the trees bend to nearly their breaking points. The powerful waves beat the boats up against the docks ruining hulls and flipping over sailboats rendering them useless. The storm is relentless with thunder booming and lightning cracking, yet they cannot look away. They watch as the winds suddenly die down just as quickly as they came, and what’s left are broken branches strewn all over the yards amidst silence. Looking up, they see a rainbow arching over the destruction the storm had left, and in that moment, that is all they need to see.
Smoke fills his lungs as he runs further into the forest carrying the hose that may save a structure, a neighborhood, a life. He has worked as a fireman for 20 years and knows what to do without even thinking about it. He knows his breathing will be compromised; he knows the visibility will be minimal; he knows he has no choice but to go into the fire and now. And so he does. Engulfed in the hot flames, he does his job, saving that which could be saved but at a cost as another small part of him was burned beyond recognition that day. He will run into the flames again next time because that is what he knows: sacrifice for others.
Sirens blare, but outside it looks calm. No wind, no rain, just a warm spring day. So, the children ignore the sirens and play in the backyard until that moment. That moment when the ground starts whirling around itself picking up everything and tossing it everywhere. Mesmerized by the cyclone, they hesitate before they run inside seeking shelter when suddenly the children are picked up and whipped 100 yards away as if they were weightless ragdolls. The tornado leaves them bruised, cut and exhausted. And still, the next day, they rebuild. They help each other find the treasures deep within the destruction.
She is in her classroom teaching a lesson on subject-verb agreement when she feels her body begin to shake. Is it a heart attack? A panic attack? Stay calm. She looks at the students and sees that their desks are violently rumbling against each other. They have practiced the drills and know what to do without being told. They find cover in door jams, away from glass, and they protect their heads. They all take cover. She exhales deeply once the rumbling has stopped; and she can see that no child was hurt. The overall damage was minimal. They return to the lesson feeling a sense of pride because they knew how to stay safe. This is bipolar: powerful acts of nature that first percolate internally and then explode externally, unexpectedly. There is a fall-out for everyone. There is growth for everyone. There is hope.