After the Downburst
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My paintings this summer are not that much different than the ones I painted over thirty years ago, when the derecho came and brought with it wind gusts over eighty miles an hour. Thick-trunked oaks decades older than I were no match for that July’s gales, toppling onto cars, roofs, backyard patios. We had some warning it was coming, even though it wasn’t like it is now, with alerts flashing on our smartphones and red-striped news tickers streaming across our television screens.

I watch YouTube clips from the storm of 1980, the one some Midwestern meteorologist coined the “More Trees Down derecho.” The videos are full of shaggy-haired men crawling over piles of lumber that were once their bedroom walls and women with blue eyeshadow holding sleepy-eyed toddlers as they talk about running to the...

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