When the tornado warnings appeared during the writing conference, I was sitting with a poet reviewing her manuscript.
Conference attendees who had gathered in a lounge area hesitated, unsure of what to do. The sky was an ugly green-gray, too similar to the sky years ago when an F-5 ripped through a town near my home. My church had helped with the relief effort and those memories moved me to the basement.
Amid friendly jostling and banter about 20 of us found sitting positions along a narrow hallway. I still had the poems and the poet sat next to me.
We waited. A child started to cry. People began praying or singing hymns.
I prayed, then trusted my gut and continued the critique, keeping my voice low. I wondered if I distracted those praying aloud or singing softly. Maybe as a faculty member I was a bad example because I was working and not asking God openly for safety and peace.
The singers and prayers showed their faith; I trusted God by carrying on with life in the middle of trouble. Using my imagination and focusing on art in that moment was a spiritual practice for me. The poet trusted God by giving her attention to our conversation. Her art gave us something to engage with and opened us to His presence. The prayers and worship surrounding us helped us attend to our work, and perhaps our calm attention to something besides the threat helped settle nerves, including our own.
And the tornadoes? No danger came close.