Terror in the clouds…not just a passing storm!


The scent of lilac and honeysuckle fill the morning air as I run down the street early this morning.  Endorphin enhancing fragrances. I am a long way from the many large protests happening in our major cities. That is just geography however because the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are ever present. America is decidedly on my mind.

An early summer storm threatened the Vermont sky last evening. An ominous sky overhead as we began our evening walk with our dog. The sun was still present with glimpses of blue sky in a very deceptive manner.  I trusted it. The same way I trusted an illusion of safety many years ago.  I was stunned by lightening in my early twenties and have had other intense “lightening” experiences that have left me very cautious and quite irrationally afraid of pending storms. One summer evening in another place and at another time in my life a blue sky appeared overhead as lightning struck from behind.  A classic summer storm set-up. 

Thunderhead clouds were off in the distance as I tried very hard to ignore their presence last evening. In actuality I saw nothing else as we made our way down the street. How quickly our environment changes. How quickly things escalate. My adrenaline began to pump. I felt the humidity encompass me as moisture appeared on my skin. 

The ever so immediate “fight or flight” response took over. All of my attention was on getting safely home. Heart racing with shallow breathing as my adrenaline was flowing like the rapids of a swiftly moving river.  I saw nothing of my beautiful landscape just the dark looming clouds seeming to threaten my very existence. In my mind anyway. In my experience. Fight or flight knows no religion, color or socioeconomic status. Purely a human physiologic response. Fearing and fighting for one’s life is a basic and profound human instinct. As human as the beating of a heart.

Abruptly turning back towards our home all rationale went by the wayside. Logically I knew I was only a half mile from my home, but logic played no part as darkness surrounded me. Truly the longest and hardest half mile I can remember running. An endless marathon of effort. My feet felt as if they were encased in cement and not my New Balance running shoes. I don’t know how many actual minutes it took for me to make my way home. Maybe 4 or 5 minutes based on my usual running pace, but this was anything but a usual run. My brief but anxiety ridden effort seemed like an eternity. I arrived safely home before the storm. I sat gratefully on my couch recovering as I tried to calm my still rapidly beating heart while reflecting on the concept of minutes and eternity.  In just under nine minutes George Floyd painfully and tragically entered eternity. The unimaginable horror of 8 minutes and 46 seconds…

The news is filled with protests happening around the world. George Floyd is posthumously responsible for a world-wide movement. Mr. Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna spoke prophetically and insightfully as she sat on the shoulders of retired NBA player Stephen Jackson. “Daddy changed the world.”

There is hope. If we listen and hear the many compelling and diverse voices there will be positive change. A tide is rolling in. A movement is here. Let the waves wash over you as we listen to the sound of the mighty ocean. A just and united America waits on the shore. In literature water often symbolizes renewal, life and the washing away of sins. We have the opportunity to do the right thing and be an America we can all be proud of. 

Last night’s storm has passed but I know there will be another and many after that. Weathering storms is part of life. I have learned that. Last evening and before I went to bed I glanced outside my window. The skies had cleared, and a nearly full Moon shone brightly.

           Every storm runs out of rain, just like every dark night turns into day.   Gary Allan

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

2 thoughts

  1. Beautifully written. Compelling analogy. As a former runner, I could feel the fear of trying to outrun the storm. As a true believer in the sanctity of life, I could feel the black and white terror George Floyd endured in his last moments.

    Thank you, Liz.

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