Sharon Randall: Learning to weather life's storms

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2012

By Sharon Randall

Once again, I did not bring an umbrella. Or a coat. Or a hat or scarf or gloves or snow boots. Or a rope to tie down my goat.
For the record, I don’t own a goat. It’s an expression I grew up with. Where I come from, if winds exceed average velocity, it’s time, figuratively speaking, to go out and tie down your goat. Even if you don’t own one.
Had I owned a goat and brought it with me this week (to the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee), it probably would have blown out to the Atlantic.
I am a meteorological magnet for unseasonable weather. I should be a travel icon on Before going anywhere, you could click on me to determine whether, God help you, I might be going there, too.
In which case, you should cancel your plans and stay the heck at home. If you must go, at least, go prepared: Pack warm clothing. Say goodbye to your loved ones. And take a minute to update your will.
If you follow in my wake, you can count on a bumpy ride. Just ask any of my former friends.
I’ve attracted dust storms in the desert. Torrential rains in Mexico. Tornadoes in Indiana. Hurricanes in the South. And enough snow to make Santa hang up his boots and put his reindeer out to pasture.
Years ago, I was assigned by the newspaper I worked for to host readers on a cruise through the Mediterranean. All was well until the night we were beset by an unexpected storm with 90-mph winds and 25-foot seas. Waves were so rough I was tossed, I swear, out of bed. Twice. Folks were sick as dogs.
Remarkably, no one complained. Either they didn’t know about my reputation for attracting foul weather or were too busy throwing up.
You would think by now, knowing what I know, that I’d never leave home without an umbrella and a life vest. What can I say? Some of us are slow to learn. And quick to forget.
Truth is, I’ve always believed that the mark of a good outing is how little you have to take along.
When my children were small, I cultivated friends who were prepared for any possibility — women who owned a vast array of Tupperware and would pack for a simple outing to the park like pioneers crossing the prairie in a covered wagon.
I liked those women a lot. Most anything I needed, I could count on them to pack. They made my life much easier.
But we can never truly be prepared for everything. Not weather. Not people. Not life.
Why not skip all the heavy lifting and travel light?
I just spent a few days speaking in Bristol, Tenn., and Bristol, Va., two lovely cities divided by a state line, but united by a lot of good people. When I arrived, it was cloudy, but balmy, typical late-April weather. By nightfall, the forecast was rain mixed with snow, gusty winds and near-freezing temperatures.
I put on everything in my suitcase and sat on the heater in my hotel room, watching rain flecked with snow make little pockmarks on the pool.
But weather didn’t hamper the turnout or dampen the spirit at the cities’ Mayors’ Awards of Distinction ceremony, or at the gathering the next day at the public library, a wonderful facility shared by both cities.
People showed up smiling, as they always do, to welcome a stranger to their midst and make her feel right at home.
I have learned to rely on the kindnesses of strangers, to bask in their warmth and take shelter in all that we share in common, and to be reminded, lest I ever forget, that we are far more alike than we are different in the everyday matters of the heart.
But it probably wouldn’t hurt me to pack an umbrella. And maybe a pair of socks.
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