Atmospheric River

By Anita Lo

October 10, 2022

Atmospheric River

When I was a child I frequently imagined ways in which I might perish in a natural disaster. I remember one night waking my father to ask whether it was more likely that a volcano, a tornado, or a flood would destroy our house. He said, “Maybe a volcano,” before reassuring me that we lived safely atop a suburban hill outside rainy Seattle. Slowly he helped contain my molten dreams of catastrophe. 


Years later, as a gale squeals past the windows of my parents’ new house, the local news warns of an “atmospheric river” arriving overnight: a compressed artery of humid air that will shatter into storm when it collides with an overland cold front. I peek outside expecting a splashy sky-hung waterway, a Milky Way plume of bitter rain; I see only treetops bowed as if in silent prayer. While hiking the morning after, I stumble upon a young pine, cracked like a split hair, arched beatifically above my head. Its freshly bare heartwood core glows white against the rain-dark leaves. At dinner, I show a photo of this fallen disciple to my father who says, “That's what I was always afraid of in our old house: that a big tree would fall on us.” Suddenly I am young again, shivering across the hallway to his room. Now even on windless days I imagine not a massive evergreen cleaving our roof in half, but instead my father lying awake on windy nights, listening for a crack.


Anita Lo lives in New York City. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fractured Lit, Vestal Review, and AAWW’s The Margins.


Image by Sergei courtesy of Adobe Stock

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