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  • My alma matter is built along a three-hundred foot cliff in Missouri. On the edge of the cliff, in the center of campus, there is a rock outcropping called The Point. From The Point one can see the river and docks three-hundred feet below and, beyond that, cow pastures and trees and then the city rising toward the western horizon. It's the perfect place for romantic excursions, brilliant sunsets, smoking pipes, playing the guitar, journaling, reading, and just being alone with one's thoughts. It's also the perfect place to watch a storm.

    When the storm season arrives in South Missouri it is standard fare for classes to be interrupted and for the bustling life of campus to vanish into the the bowels of the buildings. Students view TV, listen to the radio and check smart phones until those who are watching the skies tell them the danger of tornadoes has passed. There is more water in Missouri than in every other state I have lived combined and the air is full of it. The water steams up out of the ground and trees and off of the rivers and lakes. The humid air clashes with cold fronts in the spring and entire towns are flattened.

    I was up late one night (every night really) in the dorm and the rushing wind outside sounded as restless as I was feeling so I put on a coat and shoes, went outside and wandered down the sidewalk that became a stone path that led to The Point.

    The trees were swaying violently. The sound was, at one moment, a howl, and the next, an enormous sigh, and then everything was still for a moment like the instant of perfect suspension of a pendulum at it's apex. The wind would gather it's strength, like lungs sucking in a deep breath and suddenly it would shift directions. When the wind changed directions I had to lean into it to keep my balance. The roar was magnificent and I felt as though I was absorbing it's kinetic energy--feeling more alive.

    When I got to The Point I was surprised and disappointed to see someone already there. It was late at night and cold and the air was getting damp--conditions were not typical for a stay at The Point. I thought about leaving but decided there was plenty of room and, discerning the figure before me was male, I decided I wouldn't be scaring anyone. He was standing at the edge of the rock with his arms spread wide and his chin thrust forward. The Point was comprised of three levels of rock. The guy with his arms spread eagle was on the lowest level and I was on top. I walked out to the edge. Even though my neighbor was staring out into the void and the wind was deafening he apparently sensed my presence and glanced back at me for a moment. Maybe I changed the sound of the wind as it parted around me.

    It was dark and loud and my hands were jammed in my pockets so I just stood there. It was obvious enough that we were both there for the same reason. He turned around and resumed his dramatic pose. I intentionally did not say melodramatic because, if you had been present, you would realize that the display of raw power the wind was exhibiting truly warranted a dramatic response. I pulled my hood on tight and shoved my hands back deep into my pockets. My pose, more practical and less uninhibited, was slightly hunched with feet staggered to keep from falling over in the intense wind. Even so I stumbled more than once as it's direction shifted.

    I actually recognized the guy. I had a distinct impression of him as being weird and socially-of-the-fringe though I didn't know his name or have any concrete memories of him. It was a small campus and I had, at the least, an impression of every student in the school. I was glad for him that he was able to experience this wind because it was something else.

    The only view was of a deep darkness rising before us and then the purplish haze of the city lights fading into more darkness. The wind seemed to be rushing down the hill below like a tidal wave. It would strike the cliff and follow its line straight up all three-hundred feet before crashing over us and then receding. We would lean forward when the wind came up and lean back when it withdrew. When the wind withdrew it felt like it was trying to throw me off the cliff. I had the distinct impression of a sentient force desiring to pick me up and hurl me out into the black. But it was less personal than that. It was a violent, force of nature that would be doing it's thing whether I was there or not. If I leaned too far over the edge it would throw me off but if I had been in bed it would be just as violent and powerful in my absence. Though the sound and the cold and the power and the thrashing trees were all stimulating, I mainly felt a deep peace and stillness.

    It was...beautiful? scary? clarifying? magnificent?
    It was very good.

    After a long time I felt satisfied and left.

    Photo by Eduardo Marquetti
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