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Surviving the Night: When Batteries Aren’t Enough

2013 May 20
by Ann L. Carter

A stormy Kansas night is not a good time to be out of batteries.  I should know this, having lived here most of my life.  The warnings were in with high winds, hail the size of baseballs, indications of possible tornadoes–enough to make you want to find a bomb shelter and as soon as possible.  But I also know that most of the time the storm passes and you’re O.K.  Still, extra batteries are good.   I thought I had everything under control, which actually is a sign to take cover.  But I felt like I was doing good with flashlights that worked, a weather radio, and the TV turned to WIBW live radar.

Then the lights went off.  Not to mention the TV and with it that reassuring picture of those dark red blotches that are just a touch to the north.  But I had my computer and it was set on a weather station.  Except when I turned it on it refused to refresh….ah, no internet.   Never mind, because if a tornado was on the way, the weather radio had a backup battery.  I went to see why it wasn’t going off with its usual irritating frequency and it was dead.  This morning, in the light of day, I found that the batteries were there, just corroded.  My last idea was the radio/cassette/DVD player, but the eight (mind you eight) batteries required were missing—and with the extra large economy pack needed to run its many features, no wonder I had never bought them, let alone put them in.

I lay on the couch with Jack and listened to the wind and rain.   I finally decided a better idea was to go upstairs with the window open—surely I would hear the tornado coming in time to save us all, making sure all people, dogs, and indoor cats (the outdoor ones were one their own) were down in a basement I don’t even like to venture into on a good day.  But really I knew better as tornadoes aren’t like trains (though they do sound like them) that give a clear loud whistle so you can get off the tracks before being run over. 

At three the lights came on and I could once again check the TV radar—no more storms on the way, at least for that night.  I finally fell into a restless sleep to have a dream that was like no other.   My mother was going to the doctor, suspecting breast cancer.  When she returned she said she was only given two years to live—it really wasn’t treatable.  This was terrible news but then something much worse happened, for she turned into Rose, my 11 year old daughter.  My “baby” was lying in front of me, a pleading look on her face, and she said something that broke my heart.  She said, “But I want to live.”  As I write this, I have a memory of exactly what happened in the dream, but thank God the memory of the feeling I had then is almost gone.  For what I felt, the depth of the sadness and agony of knowing my child would die as I watched, was something I had never come close to imagining.  I can only think that perhaps I experienced the horror of this in another life, for otherwise how could I know?   And why was this terrible insight given me, and why now?   As I try to find an answer, a poem I wrote years ago comes to mind:


Walking outside

teacup in hand

my perennials the best ever

from timely spring rains

one small thing to rejoice

in a world gone mad


a robin sitting on her eggs

her nest

built under the eves

supported by phone lines

flies out noisily

as I walk by


two tiny birds

so high I can barely see them

clinging to the top

of a neighbor’s tree

 having survived the night

join in praise

to the morning.


May 14, 2002


This morning, eleven years later, I walked outside, once again with teacup in hand.  There was oddly little damage from the storm.   The cats took up their usual paths in front of me as I made my way around the house.  The potted plants were still intact, though my mother’s glider, the glider where she used to sit and watch the school children come and go across the street from her, needed to be righted.  My recent transplants, the cone flowers and larkspur and something that is like bushy sunflowers, obviously loved  the rain.  The blue flax by the side of the road glistened.  One robin perched at the top of the tallest tree in my front yard.  He looked very proud from where I stood below.  Proud and hopeful, having survived the night.  I had survived the night too, minus radar maps and beeping radios.  And I had come face to face, in my dream and perhaps in another life, with what nobody wants to ever know.  No batteries, of any size or amount, will prepare me for that.

There can be no real safely in the night, only hope that we will somehow make it through.  And when we do, then like the birds, we must find a way to praise the morning. 



One Response Post a comment
  1. June 14, 2013

    Such a beautifully written piece. How little control we have over the storms that come and how little credit we can take for robins and larkspur. Loved the photos and the images the writing provoked. Thank you. terry

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