“Keep your focus on your passion in life and the things you enjoy doing. You’ll get there. Trust me. I’m doing it.” -Tim Samaras
Why do I pursue tornadoes?
It makes me question life.
It’s being able to “predict the future” and it’s such a surreal skill to posess. Tornadoes are beautiful – seeing one is a rush of both amazement and terror; and their life cycle is incredible to see in motion. There are so many exact specific processes that need to come together at the exact specific time and exact specific location. Sometimes it’s not obvious they will, but when it is obvious it’s even harder to handle knowing that even with today’s technologies the only thing that can ever come close to understanding nature is human intuition.
The intellectual challenge is addicting.
You can use equations and models all you want to try to reproduce nature but in the end, it’s just about believing and understanding your own patterns you see, and using the entirety of your experience to relate past, present and future to figure out yourself how nature works. It gets complicated when everyone sees things differently. It’s the gut feeling I rely on to choose one spot on the map, own my decision, and watch what I came there for come to life as if it was just meant to, that keeps me coming back – even if I can do nothing to control it.
Tornadoes abruptly change and end lives.
I’ve been driving down back roads before having all-too-real premonitions that the barn on top of that hill just won’t be there in three and a half hours, or that the one town over there is the one fated to be decimated and to spend years rebuilding while watching their neighbors continue on with their lives, or that this one family in the prairie may be the only stop in a tiny but deadly tornado’s predestined path. These have never become reality, yet.
But meanwhile you can “understand tornadoes”.
It’s not even difficult sometimes; usually I shut off RADAR and other crutches when I’m confident I’m reading a storm as I should. You get to know its intentions that way. That doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know, or the half of it.
That doesn’t mean I’m not afraid.
Every time I’m out it hits me. That I know I’m safe. That others aren’t. That there’s really only so much I can do in the moment. And that I took the time out of my life to drive hundreds of miles just to feel this hard reality set in.
Putting yourself at the center of all of this is so surreal.
After each trip I need quite awhile to think through what happened. Everything from how I understood what was happening to what else could have happened. It takes me awhile if we witnessed something destructive. It takes me awhile if there were nothing but blue skies that day.
But once I come to terms with life and existence I’m itching to get out again, to see and feel something one more time whatever it is.
-Cameron J. Nixon
Valparaiso University Meteorology Class of 2017