I spent the afternoon telling people to relax about an assignment. Just do it, I said. I've done this particular assignment twenty times. Later, my partner in teaching the course, gave me the same assignment. Present tomorrow morning, she said. She smiled. Sometimes confidence bites me in the ass.
A tornado may have blown through the region today. Warnings screamed out of our phones, weather people took over the airwaves, and we watched the skies and trees. Only a small branch came down in our yard, but others had it worse.
During the storm I knew our house would be spared just as I know that no one will break in tonight, no ember will set the house aflame. My worries about these things rarely rise above a simmer. I know my family and I will be okay. That or I just believe.
The assignment is no tornado. It's just barely a warning. There's no real danger.I'll compose something just fine. My world has a way of working out.
Remembering that is the trick. The tree by our house has stood for twenty years. The house for sixty. I've been breathing for nearly forty-six and I've done these assignments for seven years. The Earth spins, seasons turn, disasters and miracles come and go.
Tomorrow, I will present to the group and it will be good or bad. If it is a disaster, only the smallest of branches will fall. Done perfectly, it will still be forgotten in a week. Still, it's worth doing as well as I can.
My best friend is a geologist, he knows the long-term. Our forty-six years isn't even a laugh, just the beginning of a smile. Tornadoes aren't disasters so much as meteorological events as old as the rocks. He sees the glaciers moving, the Earth being shaped, the grandest of canyons being carved. The Earth is impossibly old, he knows, and our time so short as to seem meaningless.
He spends most of his time and energy crafting photographic art of The Adirondacks and Thousand Islands, Death Valley and Zion, Labrador Pond and Green Lake. He creates majestic of images through his camera because good work matters no matter how fleeting.
I have twelve hours before I present tomorrow. I've got a draft of an idea. The rest will come as I sleep and I'll wake early to write it out. I'll carry the branch from the storm down to the curb. Driving south, I'll see the valley and hills out my window but think how my friend could show their true majesty. In class I'll admit that the assignment got me nervous too, but storms pass and I have something to show them. Something as beautiful as a perfect photograph. I'll pull out my pen and some paper and together we will write on.