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I dragged myself into my sleeping bag, putting a period on another toilsome day of hiking. It was Friday night; instead of watching The Voice of China in my cozy bed, I wore myself out on the penultimate night of our trip, with 8 miles of hiking and the camp set-up challenge with crazy disabilities and unexpected hardships and swarms of mosquitoes and dinner preparation with the stove sabotaged. A night of pure chaotic madness. Expending my last remnant energy, I pulled off my sweaty clothes covered in dirt, and passed out into a zone of unconsciousness.
Have you ever felt a night of sleep so cozy and comforting--as if you were still in the mother's womb; as if you were protected from all hazard of the perilous world; as if lost in your own mind, there's no tasks that must be done, chores that must be completed, goals that must be accomplished; as if you were loved so greatly that the world owed the peace to you. I was submerged in a sea of warmth and comfort. However, noises started disturbing the repose. Stifled, roaring sounds prowled in the distance, getting more and more furious and resonant as time progressed. Like a tiger hunting in the dark, the oppressive sounds exasperated a feeling of uneasiness. Tension built up, and finally a sharp noise pierced through the surroundings--a thunder broke. Following the brutal waking was sounds of water splashing on our tent, as if we were a jumble of T-shirts in a washing machine, helplessly being tossed around. There was a voice in my head telling me: it's okay; it was nothing more than a dream. Just when the voice was so eloquent that it almost convinced me to pass out into a deeper sleep, I heard Kathryn yell outside of our tent:
"Everybody get out of your tent! Grab your rain jacket and sleeping mat!"
That was it. That was all I need to force myself out of this dreamy coziness; deceiving myself that there was no storm was just not going to work. As Maxim Gorky had put it: "Let it break in all its fury!"
I pulled the rain jacket over my pajamas and stumbled out of my tent.
It was another world of chaos out there. Thunders roared in the distance, while water furiously whipped at my face. Instructed to an open field, I sat down on my sleeping mat, and started shivering like a hummingbird. I put my hands on my head and crawled like the ball of yarn that my dog used to play around with. A few streaks of lightning suddenly tore the inky sky into scattering pieces, brightening my surroundings for a fraction of seconds, and then there was darkness. Boundless and hopeless darkness. I shut my eyes, too afraid to confront and inspect the world.
Around Lake Superior, fall signals the arrival of "northeasters", or strong winds and rain. This unpleasant weather condition caused most of Lake Superior's 350 shipwrecks. On Nov. 10, 1975, the famous shipwreck of Edmund Fitzgerald shocked the world. This large cargo ship, with 26000 tons of iron ore, sank during an intense tempest on a regular trip from Superior, Wisconsin, to Detroit, Michigan. Even though I loved Mother Nature greatly, I could not help believing that she sometimes gives us humans obstacles for pleasure.
I wasn't being paranoid to be scared; lightning is fierce, and sometimes lethal. In the United States, more than 24,000 people are killed annually by lightning strikes, while more than 50 of which are fatal. Even though about 90% of the victims can survive, 80% of them sustain lifelong effects, such as neurological and internal injuries. Injuries cannot be avoided merely by shunning from the streaks of a lightning bolt. Making contact with an object electrified by lightning such as metal or the ground, as well as explosions or fires caused by the strike, can also indirectly cause injuries. So, Ben and Kathryn instructed us to abandon the tents and the tarp which seemed like a rain-blocking refugee, but instead were lethal with electrical conductivity through metal poles. However, in a pragmatic but pessimistic perspective, there was no guarantee that we could survive the tempest; we could only do what we could and left the rest to some other Omnipotence.
The terrifying howling of the formidable storm brought me flashbacks of memory of years ago. It was a summer night when I was ten years old, a summer night just as humid, but sultry and sweltering. I was already home from school, snuggling with my Teddy bear and reading comic, and that's when all of a sudden the storm started. As if it were the rage of God, inky clouds were gathered to showcase the formidable power. Not long afterwards, raindrops the size of beans plunged toward earth, slamming cars, roofs, umbrellas, and frightened crowds. I leaned toward the window, resting my chin on the windowsill which was much taller than I. It was over an hour after my mom's dismissal time from work, but she was not home yet. I didn't dare to call her in a stormy day. It was another twenty minutes before my mother finally came home, drenched and ashen-faced. I could never forget about the scene: in a chaotic world of ghastly lightnings and dreadful thunders and appalling blasts of wind, I hugged my Teddy Bear even more tightly, nestling in the haven of luminous warmth, but anxiously waiting for my family who were out there somewhere in the chaos, drifting with insecurity.
Yet this time it was different. I was alone in the wild, not in my cozy bedroom with my Teddy Bear. As a little ten-year-old, I had the given right to be scared and conceal myself in the blanket, and lament that I could do nothing to help my family out there in the chaotic world. But I was a big girl now, not big enough to fight the storm but enough to confront it. Leaving my blankets and snuggling buddy and the last bits of warmth of me in the shaking tent, I was alone. But it felt good to be alone. It felt great.
I finally opened my eyes.
The sight was amazing. The pine and white birch, those giants, yet so petite and powerless in front of Mother Nature, swayed franticly in a desperate and vain effort to keep themselves erect. However, branches were besieged by lightnings and wild winds and frenzied raindrops, and they broke and fell and broke more of their brothers underneath. It was a disaster; it was a gift. Myriad streaks of lightnings darted across the atramentous sky. Under the transitory yet glaring rays of gleam, thickly-dotted raindrops glistened outrageously. I never appreciated a storm like this, always too busy being scared. However, now I was shivering and shaking in my cold and wet jackets, yet my heart filled with joy--the joy of merely being a human, indulging in my god-given senses: an ultimate fear and pride!
It was more than one and half an hour later that the storm had let us go. I did not recall many memories, but according to my tent mates I was madly grateful. I gave thanks to life, to the tent that did not collapse, to the bugs buzzing at the tent ceiling, and to those heart-warming friends who accompanied me through the tempest. Plenty of thanks to Mother Nature for merely frightening us, not killing us. And to the fallen trees that died as martyrs. And to a brave, brand new me that grew into someone else to face up to whatever was in my way.