The Sounds of Hell
(c) Jean Ballard, 2013
Hell has no fury like a late night storm. Huddled in our tent, my dog Eddie and I listen to the crash and clamor around us – the roar of the thunder amplified immeasurably by the mountains that rim the canyon in which we are camped.
|Mountains, the afternoon before the storm hit|
The nearby creeks and Fraser river, full to capacity from rain and melting snow, race tumultuously between canyon walls, vomiting logs onto giant boulders. The roar of river and storm is exacerbated by the big rigs and trains that thunder along their paths heading to the city. Rain drums incessantly on the heavy polyethylene tarp that covers my tent.
|Swollen creek floods into swollen river,|
prior to storm.
The noise is overwhelming. I yell at it to stop. It swallows the sounds of every day life – was that a dog yipping on the path behind my tent? Are those voices I hear shouting for help? Is someone trying to break into my car? I hear everything yet I hear nothing. I am in the great outdoors yet I am claustrophobic, held captive by nature’s maelstrom. Compressed, squeezed on all sides by darkness and water and noise. Tortured.
And Eddie. He is terrified. Every clap of thunder sends him into more paroxysms of barking, more frantic attempts to escape that unknown beast around us. The trains and trucks, even as they slam their way across the metal bridges over the river, metal on metal, screeching their pain, don’t frighten him – but Thor, God of Thunder, terrifies.
|Eddie: Trucks over that little bridge don't scare me!|
|But I sure don't like THUNDER!|
I have never been the motherly sort. Whining and shouting, whether from dogs or kids, only frustrates me. I alternate between holding him tightly, rocking him, wrapping him in my shirt, singing softly in his ear and angrily saying “Eddie stop it!” “Eddie quiet!” “ EDDIE!”. He responds to the loudly screamed EDDIE better than the gentle, happy, crooning tones. I know I’m doing it all wrong. "Bad Dog Mom" is branded on my forehead. Even in the midst of hell, I feel guilty.
I sit up reading till long past midnight, afraid to rest in case yet another clap of thunder sends the dog right through the tent wall. The bedlam lasts two hours, the rain pummels the tarp much longer.
Five AM. The rain has finally stopped, save a few lingering showers. Birds are singing. I toss aside my blanket and pull on my warm flannel shirt and old navy sweatpants. We scramble out of the tent. I take Eddie for a walk, but he is strangely subdued – he doesn’t mark, doesn’t sniff, doesn’t budge from my side. Finally he releases a small burst of urine and we head back to the campsite. I build a fire, make my coffee, feed the dog - his night terrors have apparently not affected his morning appetite.
By 5:30, my dog is slowly relaxing, drifting back to sleep on the mat beside my chair near the fire. Drips from the trees punctuate my notes as I scribble the memory of last night’s storm. A light breeze freshens the damp air and a spot of blue appears between the white puffs of cloud. Mist rises from the mountains, and squirrels seek crumbs from my granola bar. Spring flowers are in bloom everywhere, though the calendar says it is summer.
|Trees tower above our campsite|
|Flowers bloom around the campsite|
|A towhee provides a morning symphony|
The coffee is hot. The fire is comforting. The dog rests easy. The storm is over.
We are free once more, no longer held captive by the sounds of hell.