First, I would like to say how lucky and how grateful that I am to my wonderful cousin, David. He made this trip possible for me, both financially and through his amazing storm forecasting and chasing ability.
This year we drove 6000 miles (including our trip out west), I got pulled over twice for speeding, got one ticket, saw two great storms and one incredible tornado.
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So now that it is over I have some stuff I would like to put into words, so bear with me.
I am not a religious person. Spiritual, yes. Connected to Judaism, absolutely. But not religious. However, I can honestly say that I have never felt closer to god than I felt watching that tornado. I was awed and overwhelmed by its power and beauty. Upon seeing a couple of my photographs, people have jokingly remarked that the tornado looked like the "hand of god pointing his finger." It truly felt that way. I felt absolutely powerless and small next to such a gloriously beautiful and destructive force.
Additionally, the beauty of the countryside was beyond compare in its extremes. The flat land of the Texas Panhandle and the beautiful rolling hills of northern Kansas and Nebraska were spectacular. I know that something greater and more powerful than me created these things.
Now, a reflection on relationships. In February of 2007 my grandfather died at the age of 96. Up until that time I had very little relationship with my cousins, David and Steven, beyond seeing each other at family gatherings. After my grandpa died and my grandmother moved north, and I moved back to New Jersey, we all saw each other a lot more frequently and began building a relationship. When Dave got Porthos, Matt and I started going to the dog park every weekend for puppy play time. Then last year he asked me to go chasing, and although I thought I might be crazy, I went. I was pleasantly surprised that Dave and I did not drive each other crazy. When he asked me again this year I was thrilled and flattered. It's been both surprising and wonderful to realize that in addition to being cousins, we are friends. And this would make my grandfather so happy and so proud.
Chasing has opened up my eyes to a number of things, not the least of which is do not speed in Nebraska (even 5 miles over!) or through the small towns of Kansas. Lesson learned. I have been able to place my fear of these storms into words, and yet again I have been awed by the beauty that exists in this country and in nature. And the most important lesson of all: I have learned that family trumps all.