Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The tempest is approaching

Author: Paulo Coelho

I know that the tempest is approaching because I see what’s happening in the distance, I see what’s happening on the horizon. Of course the light helps a little; the ebbing afternoon marks the lining of the clouds. I can also see the brightness of the bolts.

There is no sound. The wind is neither blowing stronger nor weaker than before. But I know that a tempest is approaching because I’m used to look at the horizon.

I stop walking – there’s nothing more exciting or terrifying than seeing a tempest approach. The first thought in my mind is to look for shelter – but this can be dangerous. The shelter can be some sort of trap – in a little while the wind will start to blow and he can be strong enough as to tear off roofs, break tree branches, destroy high voltage wires.

I remember an old friend, who spent his childhood in Normandy and saw the arrival of allied troops in the Nazi-occupied France. I will never forget his words:

“I woke up and the horizon was filled with battleships. On the beach next to my house, the German soldiers were contemplating the scene as well. But the thing that terrorized me the most was the silence. A total silence that precedes a life or death combat .”

It is the same silence that surrounds me now. Little by little it is replaced by the noise – very soft – of the breeze in the cornfields around me. The atmospheric pressure is changing. The tempest is getting closer, and the silence is slowly being replaced by the soft rustle of leaves.

I’ve seen many tempests in my life. The majority of them took me by surprise, so that I had to learn – and very quickly – to look further, to understand that I cannot control time, to exercise the art of patience, to respect the fury of nature. Things do not always happen the way I would like them to, so it’s better for me to get used to it.

Many years ago, I wrote a song lyric that said “I lost my fear of the rain/ ’cause the rain, coming back to earth, brings things from the air”. It is best to dominate one’s fear. I need to be worthy of what I wrote, and understand that eventually, even the worst storms will pass.

The wind is speeding up. I’m in an open field; there are trees on the horizon that, at least theoretically, will attract the bolts. My skin is impermeable even though my clothes may get drenched. Therefore it’s best to enjoy this vision rather than run for shelter.

Another half hour passes. My grandfather, who was an engineer, liked teaching me the laws of physics while we played: “after you see a lightening bolt, count the seconds until you hear the thunder, and then multiply them by 340 metres, which is the speed of sound. That’s how you will always know the distance of a storm.” It’s a bit complicated but over the years I have got used to doing it: right now the tempest is two kilometres away.

There’s still some clarity that’s how I can see the lining of the clouds that airplane pilots call CB- cumulus nimbus. The anvil shape, as if a blacksmith was hammering the sky, forging swords to enraged gods, above the city.

I see the tempest approaching. Like any tempest, it brings destruction – but at the same time it waters the fields, and the wisdom of the heavens comes down with the rain. Like any tempest, it will pass. The more violent it is, the quicker it will pass.

Thank God that I’ve learned to face tempests.

The next text will be posted on the 6th of May.

P.S: Dear reader,

During this journey, that is filling my soul with very interesting experiences, one of the most magical moments comes every night when I read the comments posted on this blog. Even though I can’t answer all of you, I want you to know that it’s very important to me to know that I’m not alone on this path. Thank you so much for your support and for the words and ideas that are now engraved on my heart.

Paulo Coelho

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