They never begin as anything noteworthy. A white puff set against aquamarine. Without an audience, the cumulus accumulate, stacking wider and higher over warm ocean depths. Winds hover, sucking up warm moisture as earth's Creator dips His finger in them, swirling the invisible round to add more white to this study in blue.
The warmth of this open-air, boundless womb continues to give life, an invisible cord connecting water and sky, providing nurturing energy to a formless shape not yet named. As it grows, it hovers, always circling, forming bone, adding moist sinew and flesh until more white than blue fills a camera's lens.
With each heartbeat, its winds grow stronger, pulling more sea into the sky. By now, the satellites note its existence, sending blurry sonogram images to weather doctors who measure its shape and size, their computers predicting its chances of making it to term, searching its growing environment for clues to predict its path in life.
The naming is ever-clinical to make the discarding ever easier. "Tropical Depression #1."
It is, yet is not.
Some never make it, dying at sea and buried in unmarked watery graves, sighs of relief accompanying the deaths of these unwanted children of the earth.
Then, there are those who rush forth across charted waters, as yet unborn but rotating ever faster in labor pains as powerful as its churning winds. Over land, the center will not hold. But over sea, this life gathers strength, is born through agony of wind's tearing, howling.
Finally, it is named. Katrina. Gustav. Andrew. Betsy. Those who await their first and last meeting with this child born of water and of sky hope and pray they will be able to forget its name.
With a life cycle of days and weeks rather than years, it consumes like the locust all the warmth and moisture in its path. Gaining in height, breadth, and strength, its solid cloud bank carries with it a wall of water and winds that make mankind's strongest structures appear as mere Tinker toys.
All the while, it hurtles headlong towards land, without emotion or will, mindless of the damage it is about to wreak on those who have watched its birth and growth.
None will mourn its passing.
While June 1 came and went without notice, it marked the start of hurricane season. Those of us on the Gulf Coast who have lived through the likes of a Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or a Hurricane Gustav in 2008--we have a healthy respect and fear of tropical activity. This season is predicted to be more active than usual: the birth of 15 named tropical storms, 8 of which will mature into hurricanes, and 4 of which will become major hurricanes.
My prayer is that you join with me over the next six months, praying to the Creator of the storm to show undeserved mercy...and if not mercy, then the grace to stand firm in the storm's wake.