Lynne McIlvride: How a tornado turned into a cat – the unfolding of a long-winded metaphor

June 3rd, 2015 – June 21st, 2015

My tornado series began over two years ago as an expression of grief and vertigo when my marriage, home and workplace were pulled out from under me:

“Weather is such a powerful metaphor for human emotion. And that writhing weather monster, the tornado, is a particularly apt way of describing the trauma, the fury, the intensity of loss. It’s hard not to take a tornado personally: it gets to the point by narrowing down and strikes a specific spot. It comes out of the blue. We don’t know what hit us. We are caught in a whirlwind of emotion. Everything is up in the air. There is no emergency plan for these twists of fate.

To put a positive spin on it, a tornado (that snaking shape-shifter) is just energy. It makes a long-winded metaphor that lasts and lasts because it wrecks and then absorbs whatever it touches down on. What starts out as an emblem of emotional devastation contorts into an expression of fury and then is reborn as a metaphor for unstoppable creativity, play, and passion. Like the flowering cross, can it become a cornucopia? Blooming tornados! Elijah goes to heaven, Dorothy goes to Oz, one thing for certain is we are pulled out of our orbit and dropped in a different place, undone.”

The metaphor recently took a surprising twist and turned into my cat, “Twister” this past winter. Drawing him made no sense to me until I added colour to his tabby stripes and I realized he was a sleeping tornado, twisted in on himself, muscles ready to cause havoc. He was a tornado personified but also the answer to my stormy dilemma: a tornado symbolizes homelessness and a cat signifies home.

And then again there was a change in the air. Cats no longer sleeping but catapulted. The cat falls head-first fighting against the gravity of the situation but if it twists a certain way, it will land on its feet. The evolution of a metaphor appears to have been inevitable in hindsight but delightfully unexpected in real time.