36: Devil Winds and Moonbeams

36: Devil Winds and Moonbeams

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Devil Winds and Moonbeams

God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine.

~David Nicholas

They call them Devil Winds—the Santa Ana winds that scream across the hot desert, funneling through the California mountains before gaining force and tearing across the southland with tree-felling, fire-breathing ferocity. Each year they topple trees and down power lines. Each year they spark devastating wild fires that scorch acres and claim lives. And we were experiencing a big one.

We had just moved to our new home in the mountains above Palm Springs, and I was unprepared for the howl and force of that wind through 100-foot-tall cedar trees. As I got the kids ready for bed, my skin crawled.

“You’ve never liked the wind,” my husband, Steven, said in an effort to calm me. “It will be fine. We’re all here. We’re safe.”

I was known, back then, as the family worrier. Steven and I were “old” when we married. He was thirty-seven, I was thirty-four. We’d searched forever to find true love and had both believed we’d never marry when we’d suddenly found each other. I’d been diagnosed with infertility issues and we’d begun the adoption process when I got pregnant with Matthew. Two years later we beat the odds again and were blessed with a round cherub of a daughter whom we named Mary.

But, I was always afraid. I kept waiting to blink and have it all disappear.

“Mama, be by me.” Blond and beautiful, Matthew knelt by the sofa and waited to say his prayers, breathing hard against his folded hands, still ruddy from his nightly wrestling match with his dad.

“Now I lay me down to sleep…”

And the wave of fear enveloped me again.

I nursed Mary as Matthew cuddled against my side. But the usual comfort of this nighttime ritual did nothing to ease my unrest. The moan of the wind through the trees shook my confidence just as it shook the windows of our cabin.

Steven had long since taken Matthew upstairs and tucked him into bed, but I could not let go of Mary. Upstairs, I stood paralyzed in front of her crib and rocked my sleeping child. I could not lay her down.

“Please God,” I prayed, “I do not know what’s wrong. But I’m scared. Protect my family. Protect these children. And give me faith in that protection.”

I can’t say I felt peace. What I felt was instruction. “Put her down. Let go. It will be all right.”

So I did. Against every fiber of my being, I released my hands and laid my precious child in her crib. Then I kissed my sleeping son and went downstairs. Later, I checked on my babies and went to bed myself.

The next thing I knew the world ended. The roar was louder than anything I’d ever heard. My screams were lost in the explosion of sound. Bombs? Nuclear blasts? No matter how wide I opened my eyes, everything was black. The world went into slow motion. I jumped up on the bed, running circles trying to locate the direction of the noise, but it completely enveloped my black, black world. The walls of the house were clearly being ripped apart, but from where? How? I couldn’t find Steven. I couldn’t find sense.

Then, in an instant, it hit. The crash threw me off the bed, but my screams and Steven’s frantic yells were intensely audible through the sudden silence. We groped for a light switch, but the power was gone. Like drunken madmen, we ran for the kids. No sound came from upstairs. In pitch-black darkness we stumbled up the stairs.

And there they were.

As we passed the doorway, the light appeared. The full moon acted like a spotlight on our precious daughter. Peaceful. Asleep. On her stomach with her legs tucked under her and her thumb in her mouth. Next to her in her crib, our beautiful boy cuddled up on his side, arm over his sister, his face peaceful and serene.

And just in case we didn’t understand the blessing, the only light came from angelic moonbeams circling our sleeping—living—children’s faces.

We fell into each other’s arms and sobbed.

Seconds later, we heard a knock on our door. Neighbors with flashlights had arrived to check on us. With them, we grabbed our sleeping babies and ventured out.

A 150-foot cedar had once stood beside the deck off our bedroom. The deck was gone. So was the cedar. It had ripped out of the ground in the wind, taking the deck with it. A gaping crater replaced the deck and the tree’s roots stood twelve feet in the air. The tree had smashed fences, buckled the road and taken out all the power in town. “I saw it!” proclaimed one man. “I stepped outside ’cause I heard a noise. I’d run back in to call you—the tree was wobbling like a spinning top. But it fell before I could call.”

In unison, each neighbor shined his flashlight down the length of the tree and across the path of destruction as the howling wind whipped our hair and tugged at our nightclothes. It reached from our yard, through our next-door neighbor’s yard and into the yard of a neighbor two doors down and across the street with its full, wispy branches beating against the steps of the preschool in the wind. Chain-link fences were crumpled like aluminum foil. Split rails were kindling. The tree had imbedded into the asphalt a good eight inches.

But, no one was hurt.

In fact, the tree crashed at the only angle it could land and not kill someone—a lot of someones. It had fallen in the only direction that would not hurt someone. We were spared and neighbors in three adjacent houses were spared.

A shiver ran up my spine as the enormity of our “near miss” hit me. Mary was asleep on my shoulder, her sweet baby breath warm against my neck. Steven’s eyes locked mine by the reflection of the flashlights and, knowingly, I watched as he pulled Matt tighter against his chest as the relentless wind suddenly calmed. As it did, treetops settled into their statuesque positions and the full moon beamed down between the branches and onto our small band like those theatrical spotlights that descend with the word of God.

“My, my, my,” whistled our neighbor. “Can you believe that nobody was killed? That’s got to be a freak of nature.”

“Or a miracle,” offered Steven as we all stood assessing the damage.

That night taught me about God’s miracles, about faith, and about listening, for yes, there may be devil winds out there—but there are also moonbeams.

~Susan Traugh

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