Sermon for Something Beautiful: A Weather Report

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If there’s anything you can count on Newfoundlanders for it’s a love of children and a concern for the weather.

Some sweet is he, a Newfie says as we pass each other on the down curve of Rolling Cove Road. He points at Graham busy tugging at my arm and clenching a gray and brown speckled pebble in his other hand. A handsome lad, eh?

If I’m walking alone, it’s Good morning, lovey. Nice day. Rain’s coming, though.

Is it now? I ask, attempting to mimic the local lilt and dialect.   The sky is a lavender blue, cloudless, and the bay glistens and shines like a polished indigo stone.

This afternoon it’ll come.

It’s hard to imagine, but he’s right. Two hours later the rain begins to drop in coin-size chunks, and, counter intuitively, it falls from the sunlight and the clouds appear later, grimy on the horizon.

Every evening we drive to the cape, a journey that could get boring if the weather and view ever stayed the same, but they don’t. On an island peninsula in the North Atlantic, you might experience three seasons in one day. Distant landmasses might appear and disappear on the water. That’s what happened to us yesterday.

My husband and I drove with Graham up to Landfall National Park, near the cape, where a statue of John Cabot—discoverer of the New World!—watches over the ocean he crossed in 1497, and where we discovered days ago a pond hidden in the rocky hills in which the seagulls congregate. Graham loves the seagulls. Bird! Bird! he says and flaps his elbows, more scarecrow than gull. He shrieks when they startle and take flight, enthralled by his power to propel their wings. We bring days old bread to lure them close. It’s 5 o’clock, sunny and the clouds stretch like white linen above us. But as we move upward toward the park, a fog blankets the water and us, the temperature dropping 20 degrees at least, and I have to struggle Graham’s sweatshirt over his bare arms. The rain begins so suddenly I can barely pull my hood over my head in time. No birds. We run for cover under the Dairy King’s awning where a waitress pops her head out of the walk-up window, Thunderstorm warning, she says. I hate that. We never have those.

How Newfies get such news remains a mystery to me. Thunderstorm? I think. My forearms still sting with the sunburn I earned just hours ago.

We drive home. As we drive we watch a small fishing boat race for shore, the wall of fog like an apocalypse chasing it. In minutes, it’s completely shrouded in clouds, and I imagine the disorientation its passengers feel from inside the blinding condensation. No shore in sight.

The storm’s over in less than 45 minutes, and the sun reappears. So does the boat, motoring its way toward the harbor as though it hadn’t just sailed through purgatory.

We try again. Back up to the park, to John Cabot’s steadfast posture on the rocks. My parents come along. We bring more bread since Graham has eaten most of our original stash.

A seagull perches on top of Cabot’s head.

“That must be some kind of omen,” my dad says. “Whatever it means, it’s certainly disrespectful.”

Just as we come over the hill to greet the pond, another fog envelops us. I can’t see Graham who I know is holding my mother’s hand maybe 15 feet in front of me. I also know there are cliffs past the pond, giant cliffs with steep drops and though I know my mother won’t take him that way, my chest thuds.

There’s nothing to do but wait it out. So we do.

As the fog lifts, we see a host of seagulls floating on the pond, white ornaments bobbing.   Past them, a sky like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life, so spectacular we all stop in our tracks, even Graham, and stare.

The water is flat, ribbons of purple-silver slowly bending like an inhaling and exhaling of breath. Pink rays of sun fan out from the sky into the water painting circles of light yellow onto its surface. The clouds are like snowy mountains sitting on the horizon, and their undersides burn the color of blood oranges or the red flare of rekindled cinders.

Oh. Wow, my father says.

God, I manage to reply, and I turn toward my husband to watch his face alight and my son test his balance by stepping from the spongy grass onto a spiky rock, my mother’s hand still holding his even as she stares seaward. The word that comes to mind is revelation: I feel like I’ve been shown something too big for me to understand in the moment of showing.

Our drive down toward home is unhurried, because cars stop and pull over so visitors can hang their cameras out the windows, each crook in the cape road offering up a new view. A black fox ventures out of the crag for cookies people toss out. Our Ford Focus can’t pick up radio stations so we’ve been listening to a Simon and Garfunkle CD on repeat for a week. Graham loves “Cecilia,” because we all belt out the lyrics and clap. Right now, it’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” and we all sing under our breath, “I get all the news I need from the weather report.”

Newfoundland is a parenthesis in the paragraph of my summer.  In my normal life, back at home in Houston, where the weather is as predictable and muggy and gross as morning breath, I was and will be in a strange period of waiting. Waiting for various forms of news that might change my life in serious ways. I was also, like everyone, waking up daily to an unexpected storm: shootings by police officers and of police officers, foreign rampages, pseudo-coups, running mates and economic woe, a collective rage constantly fogging television screens and social networks. I walked around then and will walk around when we return inside an anxiety haze, every day taut as an anchor hitch.

Here in Bonavista, after we finally descend back home, my dad will walk up to the pub as he does every night to shoot the shit with locals and from where he will bring back predictions about the capelin’s arrival on shore and the humpback whales breeching and, yes, tomorrow’s weather, and my mom, my husband and I will sit around a circular table and play Yahtzee—through the monitor in the center of the table, we will be able to hear my soundless son sleeping through the white noise of a fake ocean on top of the crashing water of the real ocean outside his window. We will call each other wicked names after unlucky rolls of the dice and laugh and stop occasionally to glimpse the changing sky outside, the sun that sets slowly here, a night owl sun sleeping whenever it feels like it. Another fog forms far away on the water, a tall barricade of smoke and so foreboding. But it’s not here yet. And when it arrives, we’ll know to hold still in our raincoats. We’ll know to wait it out.

Something beautiful is coming.

Amen.

 

 

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