So two weeks ago Thursday, now affectionately known as the day of the tornado, my team and I had finished volleyball practice in the morning and I had completed my workout. A friend had texted me the previous evening and asked if I wanted a bucket of homegrown blueberries. I had responded with an immediate yes, because I love blueberries and made plans to stop over the following day. On the way home from practice, I grabbed the blueberries, a whole Dean’s ice cream bucketful! I was in heaven. I decided I was going to go home and figure out what I was going to do with those blueberries and let my puppy, Bella, run around a bit.
Now let me tell you a bit about my puppy. As I write this, she is curled up at my feet, gnawing on her bone. Her fluffy tail is curled up on her back and her tummy rests on my feet. It’s one of those moments that make your heart melt. However, if you had asked me to describe the scene five minutes prior, there was yelling, running around like crazy, tearing apart a paper bag, nosing into the trash and general havoc. You know, typically toddler behavior. One-minute terrible twos, next minute angelic – it’s seriously like having a child, but I love her dearly.
Back to Thursday. I get home, turn Bella out for a bit, but only a bit because it’s hot and she is very fluffy. Heat is not her thing. I decided while I am pondering what to make with the blueberries to vacuum out my car because white dog hair and black car seats are not a cute combination. As I am vacuuming I notice that the air is just heavy and still, oppressive almost. I have grown up hearing stories about the 1985 tornado in Niles. I was just a year old and my family still likes to regale me with the tales. I thought to myself I be this is what my mom was talking about when she talked about how still, heavy and quiet it was when she was leaving Leavittsburg on that day in 1985.
As I finish vacuuming, Bella asks to go inside and I obliged because she was right, it was hot outside. I go in as well and remember that I need to go run an errand for my grandmother. As I walk outside, I see that the sky is black and I think to myself, I need to hustle. I hurry over, about eight miles down the road, complete my errand and decide that I need to make a quick trip into Cortland to get the ingredients to turn my blueberries into jam. In Cortland, the rain begins, but I don’t think much about it. I grab my Certo and sugar and head for the checkout line, making small talk with the cashier.
I get home and take Bella out one more time before starting on the jam. I get the first batch done in record time and it’s delicious. The rain has picked up, and the thunder is awesome, but Bella and I are just enjoying each other’s company in the kitchen. I decided to make the second batch of jam and just as I am screwing the lid on the last jar, the tornado sirens sound. It took me a moment to realize what it was, but the moment I did, Bella and I sprang into action. I grabbed my flashlight and water bottle, a bag of treats, my cellphone and container of water for her and we took cover in the basement. Now, keep in mind, at my mom’s house we have three indoor cats as well. The dog and one of the cats gets along famously. In fact, I would say they are best friends. Each morning they greet each other in the cutest nose-touching ritual ever. However, the other two cats are not such big Bella fans. The one cat is absolutely terrified and the other one likes to tease Bella.
Well, that night, Bella and I are sitting in the basement and the three cats come down seeking shelter as well. Bella allows them to sit right next to me without chasing them or barking at them. The cats in turn, sat peacefully without teasing or hissing at Bella. At that moment, I had an epiphany. Why does it always take tragedy or something horrible to bring everyone together? Why can’t we be more like Bella and the cats every day? It is something that I am going to ponder and try to do better with this year in my teaching, coaching and everyday life. I may not agree with everyone all of the time, or even some of the time, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot exist with them peacefully.
Mother Teresa may have said it best when she said, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Submitted by Christen Clemson, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who has completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca Township.