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Tornado Alley: So Far, So Good

Margaret Hamilton, ugliest broad who ever lived—and the breakout star of "The Wizard of Oz." She's terrorized kids for generations.

I live in the Midwest. This is Tornado Alley. I’m used to it but I take it seriously.

I haven’t been hit yet, and of course I’m hoping not to be. But tonight we have another Severe Thunderstorm Warning and a Tornado Watch, par for the course on any given night in May. There’s a storm headed right my way; as I type, the thunder rolls.

While I count my blessings I’m very aware of the devastation in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, along with many points in between. This is the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1950. Eighteen months ago I was in Joplin, staying at a bed and breakfast on my way from Indiana to New Mexico for my friend Stephen’s 60th birthday. I worry about my hosts in Joplin, retired teachers who opened up their home to me. I enjoyed them, even though I knew the guy was cheating on his taxes.

That area is Newton County and Jasper County, Missouri; I live in Newton County right next to Jasper County, Indiana. (They were minor Revolutionary War heroes somehow linked in the popular mind.)

My phone rings: a computerized female voice, all singsong from her pre-recorded digital segments, purports to warn me of the coming storms. I hang up; I already got the e-mail from the Weather Channel, which screams in ALL CAPS but is easier to read than she is to hear.

My dog Luke is safe down in his bed. He got away this evening for a little while, but let lightning flash and he comes home like a prodigal son. “I am not worthy to spend a night under thy roof…” And he isn’t, to be frank, but who cares, he’s my dawg.

If conditions warrant I’ll take him down to the basement; as all “Wizard of Oz” fans know, when a twister comes you head for the cellar. The wind may blow the roof off your house, but it’s not likely to collapse the whole structure; the basement’s your safest place. If you’re really lucky the whole house takes off and crushes the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton in her immortal breakout role. She got the part of a lifetime and played it to the hilt.).

Ding, here comes another Severe Thunderstorm Warning. I check it out, but it doesn’t say much I don’t know. The Weather Channel can be really annoying, ding ding ding ding ding. (Delete delete delete delete delete.)

Joplin, with over a hundred dead, didn’t get the word in time; as soon as the hospital was notified they started moving patients out into the halls to get them away from the windows. Then BAM, the windows blew out; the hospital was wrecked.

I prefer tornadoes to earthquakes, so I seldom go to California; we get tornado warnings when we’re in danger, while California and other earthquake zones get no warning at all. All of a sudden the earth moves and you may be dead.

(Big winds now, loud thunder, heavy rain. But not the telltale signs that this one’s a killer.)

Funny thing, it’s been a good day here; I got my bills paid and was able to do some weeding in between storms. (Lightning flash.) I laid in supplies, made some pasta salad, posted the Daily Office an hour early in case the power shut down; it didn’t. I’m sitting pretty, even as the wrath of God passes overhead.

God has nothing to do with this, of course; make an earth, there will be temblors, tornadoes and storms. Life is sustained by the atmosphere—and if you don’t like the atmosphere you don’t like being alive. You can’t have one without the other, so which is it?

This doesn’t diminish the lives lost in Jioplin at all; individuals matter, and God grieves everyone lost.

Despite the late planting of the wet, cool spring, I have impatiens on the side porch (six baskets), the marigold terrace is done, half a dozen tomato plants are in, strawberries are breaking out, the herb garden is rioting (chives, oregano, tarragon, basil, parsley and my favorite, the delicate thyme). Some of the onion stalks are starting to keel over, a sign of ripeness; meanwhile the rabbits destroyed my sage, though Google says this never occurs. Somebody’s wrong and it’s probably not the rabbits—though I’d happily take a shotgun to ’em if I weren’t so scared of guns. Rabbits are so lowdown it’s an honor to make one into a stew.

I paid my bills, and saw quite clearly that my present life is unsustainable. If I keep spending as I have, I’ll lose my house. I don’t spend that much but if I keep on this way I’m a dead man. I have a few choices: get a job, eliminate coffee and cigarettes or go broke. I just turned 60 and am hanging on tight to retirement age. But as a social worker, one of the lowest-paid jobs in America, I won’t get enough to live on even when Social Security kicks in. Every day I live I’ll get more in the hole, unless I can write a book that’s a smash hit.

What are the odds of that, given what you know of Joshua?

I had a wonderful 60th birthday; I woke up feeling great, a paradoxical reaction since I “should have been” miserable about it. I went to Marcia’s for spiritual direction and she gave me a surprise birthday lunch, three courses, baked tilapia, I grinned from ear to ear.

She stuck a birthday candle in the fish and I made a wish: “One more year with Marcia.” After that I won’t be able to afford her. I’m soon to run through all my savings.

I have modest hopes for the book I’m writing, but for serious money I’m going to have to come up with something else, “The Service Without a Priest: The Daily Office,” which I haven’t even started yet. These last few years that’s what I’ve become known for—halfway famous even—but with all my background I haven’t a clue what to write. Maybe I can make an e-book, or maybe not.

I’m living on the edge, which is where I’ve always wanted to live; but the older you get the harder it is. Any twink can be a social worker and lay minister, but once you’re 60, poverty stops being so attractive.

The storm is passing overhead; no need to take Luke to the basement. We are spared again in Tornado Alley. But oh I do wonder, what’s to become of me between now and Social Security?

The book about Gay Christian marriage won’t sell a dime. But I might possibly luck out with The Lay Minister’s Handbook.

Most of us are laypeople, and you can’t go wrong with the Daily Office.++

4 Responses

  1. Hmm. I agree that at middle age (who am I fooling–55 is past the middle!) living on the edge of financial security isn’t appealing. I suppose it should be made into an opportunity for growing my faith in God’s providence, but mostly it just grows my stress!!

    I’m turning to you–begging you–for assistance with something. Your blog came up in a google search for Howard Galley, and is the only site I’ve found where someone says they knew him. (I’ve never heard anything about him; he sounds like an interesting guy.) I bought The Prayer Book Office as soon as it came out and have used it on-and-off ever since. I’ve set the “Great O” Antiphons from it to music and would like to submit the piece to a publisher. I haven’t found that particular version of the text anywhere, so assume that it is part of the non-referenced part of the book that he held copyright to.
    Do you know? Were you in contact with him while he was producing The Prayer Book Office? Is there any way that you could put me in touch with the administrators of his estate so that I can ask for permission?
    I realize that this query isn’t related directly to a topic on your blog, but I would really appreciate any assistance you could render.
    (By the way, I’m the music director of an Anglican church in Cobourg, ONtario, canada.)

  2. Rod, I knew Howard Galley very well – studied under him at General Seminary in 1974 – was present for the first Eucharist using Prayer C, when he was Assistant to the Coordinator of Prayer Book Revision and General Editor of the Book of Common Prayer 1979 – and visited him in later years when he produced his other books.

    I do not know, however, who might now administer his estate. He left a partner, Robert Gillespie (my classmate), at his death, but Bob has since died too. I would guess the estate no longer exists. But if there are some rights still accruing, the person to contact might be Albert – and unfortunately I’ve forgotten his last name. He was a travel agent in New York.

    I’ve put out a call on Facebook for the composer Mason Martens. I don’t know whether he’s still with us, but if he is he would know, too.

    I am always glad to field questions about Howard Galley. Dailyoffice.org, our main site, is dedicated to him, along with the Rev. Deacon A. Brooke Bushong and Br. Ervin Faulkenberry of the Episcopal Church Army, two great men and a great woman – highly accomplished people, flawed saints, workers for Christ. Howard would love to know that you’ve set his “O” antiphons to music, so I encourage you to publish these works.

    Josh Thomas

  3. Josh, I thank you for your very generous help! It is good to know that there are ‘strangers’ out there who are willing to give what they can for others.

    I am glad that Howard Galley would be pleased that I’ve set his version of the antiphons. If you think so, then no doubt he is, in whatever form of existence the next life takes. I’ve looked at a lot of different translations and transliterations of them, and still think that his are the best of the lot.

    I’ve bookmarked the daily office site. I used to say the office from the C of E’s site, but got out of the habit of it. Perhaps this will re-engage me.

    Again, thankyou
    Rod McAvoy

  4. that is so sad

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