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    Calm in the Storm

    I looked up from my studies at the steady rain. I decided it was time for a break.

    Wendy McKeen

    I'd spent the whole morning inside. It was hot and stuffy, and I was tired of memorizing German verbs. It was raining outside. My neighbors had their stereo blasting again. Somebody was running down the hall, screaming, "I can't believe he called me!" I cast aside my German book, stretched my stiff muscles, and opened my closet, searching for my hiking boots. They were in the back, under my favorite wool sweater. They still had a little mud left on them from my last ramble.

    taking time to pause during college amidst all the stress and busynessI walked alone through the woods, a solitary wanderer, splashing through puddles filled with leaves, crossing small streams and stepping over moss-covered tree roots. I meandered up and down hills, ducking under tree limbs and skidding on the slippery underbrush. I shunned the paths.

    As the wind blew large drops of rain off the pine branches above me, one dripped down my neck. I shivered—it was cold and it tickled. My wool sweater itched a little, but it was warm, and I felt comfortably bundled against the chill. I tromped down a long hill, my boots making a satisfying thud with every step. Feeling the sheer joy of independence, I relaxed as the frustrations of the morning slipped away and my mind cleared of all its clutter. My bootlace caught on a thorn bush that reached its way across my path. I bent down to free myself, suddenly aware of sounds.

    A few small black and white birds hopped from branch to branch on a tree a few yards away. They were chirping noisily back and forth in a bird language. I straightened up, my nylon jacket making a swishing sound. The birds flew away, startled. I watched them go, a little sorry to have disturbed them. I knelt next to a puddle to wash some mud from my bootlaces. The wind blew in the trees above my head, and once again, large drops fell with a plop into the puddle, making little muddy splashes on my face. I jumped over the puddle and continued on.

    I could see the lake through the trees now. I emerged from the underbrush with a crash and stopped short at the deep rumble of thunder. It echoed across the lake, heralding a storm. I stood on the pebbly shore, looking up at the darkening sky and tall trees struggling and bending in the wind. Black clouds swirled overhead, threatening. Whitecaps rolled across the lake and broke on the bank. The rain came rushing down in torrents and I hurried under the shelter of a large pine. I watched from beneath its boughs as the storm raged, trembling at the violent display of strength and power. I knew that I was small as I crouched there, hugging my knees.

    Then suddenly, the rain and the wind died down. My ears strained, listening for distant rumblings. But there was nothing; only silence.

    I crept out from under the tree's security and stood in the open, watching the dark clouds retreat. Then I remembered—Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and raging waters; the storm subsided and all was calm. There was power in this calm. Awed, I sat for a long time, looking out at the glassy surface of the lake.

    There was a blanket of mist settling on the lake. It was getting late; I hadn't noticed. Reluctantly, I turned my steps homeward. I was damp and chilled with little pieces of pine branches tangled in my hair and mud splashed up on my jeans. My boots were wet from where I had slipped on a log and plunged into a deep puddle. Now they sloshed as I strode briskly along the needle-covered path. The rain fell gently.

    I emerged from the woods, back into "civilization." I clomped down the sidewalk toward my dorm. I smiled to myself as I watched two girls huddled under an umbrella, hurrying along in the drizzle. One was complaining loudly that the rain was ruining her hair. Then she saw me. My hair was hanging in my eyes and stuck to my face in little wet ropes. I was drenched, muddy and grinning like an idiot. We exchanged glances. She smiled feebly. I watched them hurry away and then turned to go inside, back to my German verbs.

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