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'I count our strength'

It must be the child in me that still deeply attracts me to storms. To a child there is no such thing as good or bad weather. You learn the reasons for that later. A storm is a thrilling drama much like a favorite, exciting, repeated, all-encompassing Golden Treasury story snugly experienced in the warm nest of covers after an evening bath. To be safe and to know you are in a great storm that could take you away with it is, for me, one of life's most exhilarating experiences: like being ''shot at without result'' - Winston Churchill's definition of exhilaration.

Here, in the Huerfano Valley of the Rockies, amid the great upheavals of high plateau, 12,000-foot peaks that interfere with weather by knifing into often swirling clouds, and a thing they call around here The Gap - a hole in the fortresses between mountain and plain that produces monstrous howlers with colliding weather fronts - I have often found myself spending winter evenings like a child on the windowsill, wide-eyed and enchanted, watching the elements, clouds, moon, then no moon, more clouds, tumbleweed, hay, sticks, sleet, snow, hail, fly up, fly by, fly down.

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The one-foot-thick, hundred-year-old adobe walls of our farmhouse can make you feel pretty safe when you know that down along the river some of the larger cottonwoods are getting taken down and the wind pressure gauge on the roof is forcing the green liquid up to the red marks on the indicator, the liquid moving up and back like a surging tide at 55 to 65 miles per hour. The odd thing about adobe walls is that they are so heavy there is no creaking. A single brick weighs about 30 pounds, and there must be 10,000 of these oversize bricks making up the old homestead. It's a bit like living inside a rock, except for windows and roof.

Last night I went to bed, the house under a clear, high Colorado sky, the moon a bright night sun, and stars at this altitude (7,200 feet) looking true enough to be the good princess's lost diamonds, except for an ominous mist around the moon (cold, cold, cold).

I awoke sometime in the night to winds working so fast and violently I could hear the roof beginning to shift and scream. Seconds later I heard the H-chimney on the flat part of the roof above the kitchen stove break loose in the wind, but, still attached by guide-wires, it began banging itself to pieces on the side wall. I could see from my back bedroom window a volcanic stream of sparks flare up out of the old chimney bottom - the force of the wind sucking ashes right out of the banked cooking stove below. As I descended the stairs in the middle of this black storm, the worst winds by far this winter and the wind chill at least by now 60 below and a possible fire on my hands, I was slowed by the cadence of the words ''I count our strength/Two and a child '' - a Frost poem I had always been fond of.

And I made a count, and added the animals, and as I added the animals around the farm - this all taking place before I made the bottom stair - I felt strangely peaceful, and alert. Nearby, under their own shelter, were Tim and Bud , the two Belgian draft horses; the colonies of millions of bees; Chris, Nellie, Red, Abe, and Annie, and the other horses with Tim and Bud; McPherson, the ram, and his flock of 35 ewes; Maple, the milk cow; Ma Moo and her herd. ... It was not as if any of these or others could come and save us. But knowing they were there gave me strength.

They were around out there in the darkness and the black wind doing their own personal best against the storm, and that was enough, and I knew them and loved them and they would endure it. I was not unaided.

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