Storm leads to chance to be still

July 6, 2014 

The sun burned hot against the blue sky like a spotlight above a stage. It was muggy hot -- the kind of hot where your clothes stick to you as if your skin has been covered with a thin layer of glue.

I looked around to see if there was any danger of a storm popping up and decided, after my observation, it was clear to go on a long bike ride through downtown Macon.

Before I even mounted my bike to ride, I felt a trickle of sweat. Like a tiny bead, it started on my neck and slowly slid all the way down my back. I realized I was already sweating without even the slightest bit of exertion.

I wiped my brow; I was in for a hot, humid ride. I made sure I had my water bottles, clicked my cleats to the pedals and headed out.

The sun filtered down through the leaves leaving shadows spattered here and there. The slight wind felt good to my face even though there wasn’t anything cool about it. Halfway downtown, everything changed around me as the sun suddenly lost its battle with some clouds.

I continued toward my destination in hopes it would pass over. Part of me knew it wouldn’t because of all the pop-up storms Middle Georgia has experienced recently.

I had barely entered Central City Park before things took a major turn for the worse. The dust from the softball fields swirled around like mini tornadoes as the sky quickly darkened behind them. Dirt and sand plummeted my face and blew into my eyes. I pedaled faster to seek shelter before, as my daddy used to say, the bottom dropped out!

As if shot from a cannon, I raced against the impending storm. All the animals and birds certainly knew something was coming. They had completely disappeared from sight and all the melodious chirps had come to an abrupt halt.

There was just silence. The only noise I heard was a loud clap of thunder and then, as if on cue, the rain started pouring from the sky.

Out of breath and sweating from my accelerated ride, I found shelter under an interstate bridge on the bike path next to banks of the Ocmulgee River.

The temperature immediately felt as if it had dropped 10 or 15 degrees. From when I began my ride, my entire surroundings had completely changed. The loud thunder and erratic wind had moved on down the river leaving behind a soft and steady rain.

I surveyed everything around me as a sense of peace covered me like a blanket. Although I was trapped for a while, I felt I needed to be right there, right then.

Sometimes we are ushered into situations that force us to be still. In a matter of minutes, I’d gone from riding my bike like a mad man on a beautiful, sunny day to standing quietly in one place listening to the peaceful sound of the rain. There was even something lovely about the various grays that held the blue sky captive.

A fog began hovering over the river and then slowly crept along the paved path, softening its edges. The park lamps came on in unison offering a flickering of light. The lights’ amber color made the path appear to be lit with large candles. All these elements put me in a meditative state of mind. I was reminded that it is through stillness we are able to listen to our soul.

I looked down and noticed that a brightly colored green grasshopper had slowly inched its way beside the front tire of my bike. Apparently it had the same idea as me. Together we stood side by side. My new friend and I waited out the storm.

As soon as the rain slowly stopped, the grasshopper looked up at me and then meandered back into the tall blades of grass, completely disappearing from sight. I smiled and decided I also needed to begin my trek back home.

The clouds rolled away lifting the veil of darkness and freeing the sun to shine once again. Immediately, squirrels scurried out from their temporary shelters. Birds began to take flight against the restored blue skies while joyfully singing all the way.

Nature returned to normal and except for the damp payment and foliage, there was no evidence of what had occurred only a short time earlier.

I stood there and soaked in this moment in time. Have you ever smelled the fragrant air after the rain? Have you ever stopped to feel how the mist that lingers feels against your skin?

Have you ever taken the opportunity to give thanks for the things around you that we so often take for granted? I did that afternoon and felt better for having the opportunity to do so.

All our days can’t be sunny and bright. We all have our storms to endure. We all have to seek shelter sometimes. And that’s OK. We just need to use that time to reflect.

I made a vow to myself that I’m going to be still more often. I’m going to take time to just breathe. Sometimes seeking shelter from a storm can lead us to a place inside ourselves we seldom visit. I’m going to visit with my inner self more often. I hope you will, too!

More with Mark

• Join Mark at the Ladies’ Lunch and Laughter hosted by the Warner Robins Senior Activity Center at 11 a.m. July 16, Wellston Center, 155 Maple St., Warner Robins. $15 includes catered lunch. Call 478-293-1066 for reservations.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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