As a child, I often sat with my grandmother beneath her grape arbor in Mankato, MN, there to talk and listen to her stories of nature. She was not a learned person in the sense of a formal education, but she was a sagacious woman in the ways of the world. Tragically for me, and the world I lost her when I was fifteen.
Before she died, she had to have one of her legs removed because diabetes had shut down the circulation and she was developing gangrene. I lived in Minneapolis, MN, at the time so I went to Mankato, (90 miles) and stayed at the hospital with her from the night before surgery, during surgery and most of the day after, when I had to leave. That was the last time I saw her or heard her voice. Her last words were, “we will share our love of nature under the arbor again one day.” I miss her wisdom.
Starting yesterday, and continuing throughout the night and into today, St. Louis, MO is experiencing severe storms. The thunder rages like the sounds millions of buffalo stomping over the plains in the days that were. Lightning, the arrows of Father Sky, piercing the darkness, illuminating their way while torrents of rain assail their path. These were the visions my grandmother gave to me. She made me understand that nature is not science, nature is alive.
When I would ask her why storms came, she would tell me about how she had to do the spring cleaning of her house and that Mother Nature was no different.
“Mother Nature’s house is much bigger than ours.”, she would say. “She has more work to do, so she tells Father Sky he has to help her.”
“Make the Sky Buffalo run over the cloud prairies to warn all the creatures that we are going to clean. Wake them with the light of your arrows that they may prepare and seek shelter.”
But Nana, the wind blows so hard it shakes my brain to pieces!
“Child, pay attention, it is rare that the wind begins by blowing that hard but if it should then you best hide down in the root cellar cause a tornado may be coming. You don’t recall cause you were only two, but a big twister came through the town in 1946 killing eleven people and injuring a hundred or so more. They are very dangerous.”
Does Father Sky send tornadoes to hurt people?
“I don’t think so. I’m not sure what causes twisters but, like everything else in nature, they serve a purpose. Perhaps it’s a way for nature to make sure humans know who is really in charge. An old Lakota lady once told me that twisters were nature’s way of cleaning out the weak and cutting new paths for the strong. Heard tell on the radio that cold and warm air crashing together cause them. I just do not know.”
What happens to the animals when a tornado comes?
“Sadly, many animals are killed by twisters because they have nowhere to hide from them. Humans, at least the smart ones know enough to find shelter when they can.”
Nana, does the Sky Father always send twisters when he sends the winds?
“No darling, sometimes he just sends the big winds to clean out the old nests and dead branches from trees so there can be new ones.”
But Nana, if he does that, he might hit me on the head with a big branch or nest!
“That is possible, yes but most of the time the Sky Father will send warnings such as gusts of wind, thunder and many times the temperature will suddenly drop just before the storm to warn us. Course, nowadays, we have the weather guessers who might be able to predict a coming storm.”
So the Sky Father makes the wind blow and the rain fall to help the Earth Mother clean her trees and stuff?
“That’s right hon, he washes out old branches, nests, leaves and even dead animals then rinses the trees to wash away the dust.”
And the Earth Mother likes for him to do this?
“I believe she does for aren’t we all a part of her? Don’t the minerals contained in decaying branches, leaves, and animals return to the soil to help fertilize it?
But Nana, if it rains really, really, really hard all that water will fill up the creeks and rivers to flood stuff!
“Yes, that is true but what happens when there is flooding?”
I dunno know.
“Just like the trees, when Father Sky sends his rain down upon Mother Earth, the water washes away natural debris and vegetations into our streams and rivers. There, the debris-filled water will carry its burden to larger rivers such as the Mankato River which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. As the rivers fill with water and debris, they will overflow their banks and fill the land. When the water recedes, it leaves the sediment which is a natural fertilizer. I heard that this happens every year in the Nile river in Egypt and it may happen in your lifetime. “ (Nana, if you’re listening, it occurred in 1993 – worst flood in history.)
Nana, does the Earth Mother have a big dumpster or trash can to put stuff in?
“She certainly does, she has seven of them – the Seven Seas.”
But Nana, what happens to all that sediment stuff that goes into the seas?
“That which can be recycled by Mother Nature will be. That which cannot becomes deltas such as we saw down in New Orleans.”
I remember, but we saw stuff like soda bottles, and glass and stuff down in the delta place.
“Sadly, you are right. There are things that even Mother Nature cannot rapidly fix. It is a tragic mistake of human greed and indifference that produces the filth and poisons we see on our Mother Earth every day. Perhaps one day people will wake up before it’s too late and realize what they have done.”
Nana, I miss you and love you more now than ever before.