Are not you moved, when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds
– Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III
Earlier this week a severe storm front battered YouPlay HQ’s home state of NSW with winds of up to 125km per hour wreaking havoc along the coastline. Torrential rain caused flash flooding, power was cut to tens of thousands of houses and king tides lashed the beaches with waves washing over the roads.
Watching the clouds roll in during the late afternoon while the rising wind whipped and howled around the house, I took my mind off the shuddering window panes by thinking about how storms have provided creative inspiration since the dawn of time.
There’s something about the sheer, elemental power of a great thunderstorm that appeals to our human sense of the sublime. When lightening cracks the drenched earth, illuminating a sky black and heavy with menace, we feel electric and alive. As a species we’ve conquered Mt Everest and flown to the moon, but witnessing the terrible force of a hurricane or cyclone provides a fast lesson in humility.
William Shakespeare used storms as symbols in his plays to great effect. The extract from Julius Caesar above is a favourite of mine, and who can forget “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!” from King Lear.
In ancient days before science de-mystified the weather and the Bureau of Meteorology provided forecasts on the hour, can you imagine how terrifying a cracker storm would have seemed? It’s no wonder that such natural violence was attributed to the gods. Book 5 of Homer’s Odyssey describes the mighty wrath of Poseidon thus:
So saying, he gathered the clouds, and seizing his trident in his hands troubled the sea, and roused all blasts of all manner of winds, and hid with clouds land and sea alike; and night rushed down from heaven. Together the East Wind and the South Wind dashed, and the fierce-blowing West Wind and the North Wind, born in the bright heaven, rolling before him a mighty wave.
As a little girl I remember feeling both terrified and thrilled reading L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. That combination of curiosity, vulnerability, danger and adventure that is essential to the very best children’s literature fostered a love of reading that has remained with me to this day:
The house whirled around two or three times and rose slowly through the air. Dorothy felt as if she were going up in a balloon... It was very dark, and the wind howled horribly around her, but Dorothy found she was riding quite easily. After the first few whirls around, and one other time when the house tipped badly, she felt as if she were being rocked gently, like a baby in a cradle.
What’s your most extreme encounter with nature?
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