It is May. The pecan leaves have been set for only a few weeks, yet I find myself forgetting the time when the branches were still and bare. The trees are alive now, a single limb full of leaves begins to quiver in the wind, then echoes throughout, rippling from bough to bough, leaf to leaf. If trees spoke, their voice would sound like the wind. A part of me believes that indeed this is the case, that the leaves are telling secrets or singing a song. That it isn’t just a change in temperature or shift in pressure that breathes through the air, perhaps the leaves are speaking in these quiet moments. Of course, it is just a thought, I tell myself it cannot be true. It happens again, a leaf shakes, the others respond, reverberating through everything. I tell myself it cannot be, these trees are not speaking, it is only the wind, then I tell myself that it doesn’t matter; our breath and our voices are indistinguishable from one another as the breeze swirls and envelopes us.
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On Saturday Morning the family went outside to be in the garden: we looked at the seedlings, we monitored the worms and stared at the sky. We knew some ferocious storms were about to come through, the same ones that bore tornadoes throughout the South. We weren’t too concerned about tornadoes occurring in our area, as they are relatively rare here; but when I looked at the sky, I realized there was something different about this storm. Earlier that morning as I was making coffee, I noticed a flock of egrets fly in a distant pecan field where I typically only saw one or two egrets flying at that time of day. It was like they were mobilizing to move elsewhere. Ryan started talking about going fishing, I told him to wait and let me look at the radar. After looking I decided that it was best if we left as soon as possible, even though there were no tornado watches for our area at that point. He thought I was being silly, and dramatic, it wasn’t even raining at that time. After a bit of bickering he finally realized that we had to go, if for any other reason than to appease me.
It was a combination of observation and intuition that led us to leave our little home and go to a safer location at my parents. No place is completely safe, but the trajectory of the storm looked like it was going to be most vicious where we were. From reading about the storms over the previous few days, I observed that their patterns were that the tornadoes touched down predominately in the afternoon or mid-morning, many tornado bearing storms often strike at night. This knowledge, paired with a bit of intuition, ended up proving to be prudent; three miles away a significant tornado touched down several hours following our departure.
When we drove home the next day, after the storm had passed, the wreckage was surreal; familiar landscapes looked like all of the other places across the country ravaged by a storm: it was just another pile of rubble left behind by the tornadoes.
There was a strange feeling that has just now subsided after a few days. The feeling that comes from acting on intuition, when you know something without realizing you actually know it. There is nothing supernatural about intuition, it is knowledge without words, it is knowing something by feeling, rather than direct information. It may appear eerie, but my insistence on leaving was just an act of common sense gained from observation, trust, and respect: observation of surroundings, and actual information like the weather report, trust in my instincts, and most importantly respect for nature. Respect for nature is not just an act of reverence it also means acknowledging its power and getting out of the way. Knowing a place is respecting a place, and learning the intricacies of your home; the color of the leaves, the breath of the wind, the flight of birds and the sound of the insects, this is all a knowledge that can’t really be described with words. Nature speaks the same language as we do, and remembering it isn’t difficult, all we have to do is listen and learn. When we pair this with a healthy curiosity of science and the tools of technology, we can make decisions that can protect us while we learn to respect the power of the Earth.