Metaphorical Tornadoes

Metaphorical Tornadoes

A tornado ripped indiscriminately through Howard County on Thursday afternoon, leaving behind a path of destruction through the neighborhood where our family lives and also traveling through Owen Brown, where UUCC’s building lives. (I haven’t heard that any members of our UUCC community experienced any serious damage or injury; I do hope you’ll let me know if I’ve missed some news.)

I was driving and just turning into our neighborhood, preparing to meet the resident 3rd-grader coming home from school, when the tornado alarm sounded (on my smart phone, of course). I retreated safely into the house only to discover that the typically-chill-during-storms dog was losing her mind in fear, so she and I hunkered in the hallway while I panicked about whether my child was going to be walking home through the storm. (Of course the school wasn’t going to dismiss the students in those conditions, but my rational mind was malfunctioning in that moment! Thank you, amygdala.)

Fifteen minutes later the sun was shining and the again-chill dog and I walked outside to assess damage and meet the walking schoolchildren, at which point we discovered many downed limbs in our and neighbors’ yards, as well as a distinct line of felled trees, including one through the roof of a house just one block from ours.

The destruction was impressive and humbling.

Within 24 hours, workers had removed the tree from the house, as well as another one that was halfway down and threatening imminently to land in the roadway. The most severe physical damage is being tended with care. And, of course, the house and its family will be forever impacted by this event.

It’s an occupational hazard, I suppose, that experiences like this one lead me to reflect metaphorically. In this tornado reflection, my first thought is to name other people whom I experience as tornado-like in my life, those who tear indiscriminately through families and organizations and communities, causing serious harm to others without care for the consequences. And sometimes those consequences have forever effects.

But if I’m truly committed to an evolving self-awareness, I must consider those times when I am the tornado, taking inadequate care as I plow ahead, and recognizing the harmful consequences only after the sun returns… or, worse, leaving others to deal with the consequences while I continue on my destructive course. And I consider my (relative) bystander status on Thursday — focused on my panicky self and the panicky dog, with no thought to the block-away neighbors whose home was being smashed to bits. Of course it’s right for me to tend first to those in my direct care, but I was sobered to notice later my lack of consideration for the greater and more-lasting effects on others’ well-being.

It’s an imperfect metaphor, as most are. After all, some destruction is necessary for other life to thrive.

But today I’m considering the indiscriminate carelessness of the tornado and reaffirming my commitment to care and thoughtfulness in my actions, even when some pain and harm and discomfort may be inevitable.

Yours in community,


  1. Jim Alvey

    I love this metaphor, Paige. My job focuses on disaster recovery, so I get fairly constant reminders of nature’s way. Which is trend-able but not predictable. Our human lives are similar. We can set a course and make plans but stuff happens. What IS in our control is how we react. Being self aware is a great place to start.

  2. Herb Hartnett

    Life produces reminders we are not always in charge. Some reminders are more extreme than others. As we shudder with the experience of a tornado near or above us, we are cut to the core, all rationalizations of how we might be safe the stuff of better dreams

    It was not your time. In the end, fate, luck and being in the right place matter most. You exhibit daily life well and fully lived. May you and your family thrive now that the dark — really dark — clouds have disappeared.

  3. Kay


    So glad you and the dog were spared. However, the next time something like this happens, please go down to the southwest corner of the basement! Having been raised in the Mid-west including Kansas I know of what I speak (or something like that!).

    Now that I’ve given loving advice, I was doing errands and saw it from my car. I headed for home and was delayed by two lights. I thought at the time, “Won’t this be a rich ending : to be taken out by a tornado in Maryland!”

    • Karin

      I was raised in Minnesota – so I recognize your advice. And back then, we kids actually were sent home from school, which is scary in retrospect. But, luckily, we lived a block from the school and did know where to go in the basement. And even kids could look at the sky and tell when to shelter. We didn’t have sirens, or internet reports, but we could tell. Maybe because we were taught to pay attention, since there was no emergency alert or internet weather report?

  4. Kay Armstrong Baker

    I am not as eloquent as Herb. Really all I could think of was to get home to my nonchalant husband.


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