I cut my walk tonight short. A line of thunderstorms languishes out over the water. I felt safe until the birds stopped singing. Silence is not natural in the natural order. The evening songbirds know when to shut up, hunker down, and wait. Not that I’m opposed to getting caught in a rainstorm. I find it refreshing and thrilling.
I consider storm watching a hobby. Much like bird watching or herping (reptile and amphibian watching), much of storm watching is beyond my control. The conditions required for any thunderstorm are beyond my power. The conditions required for a GOOD thunderstorm are even further beyond my power.
Good thunderstorms that I remember for a variety of reasons:
· Last year Jackson and I saw the pine tree in the cemetery get struck by lightning. We could hear the sizzle.
· Our move in date in Indiana. It was September. Our neighbor came over and said, “Hi, I’m Gary. I’m your neighbor. You might want to get in the basement.” I had heard of the great sense of humor of the Hoosiers and I assumed he was kidding us. He wasn’t. Karen looked at the movers and said, “Load it back up, I didn’t sign up for this.”
· Mt. Morris 2008. It had been a miserably hot week. When the storm let loose, some of the counselors were dancing on the deck until we were scolded by the nurse for playing in a large and dangerous storm. Thus chastened, we came inside.
· I put this here because I have not yet experienced thundersnow. I am not leaving Wisconsin until I do. WHEN I do, thundersnow will rank in my top five storms forever.
A good thunderstorm makes me feel small and insignificant. The violence of wind and rain and lightning and thunder reduces me, surrounds me like a blanket, overshadows me. I don’t find this in least bit threatening.
We view ourselves as rather powerful beings. We consider the things we’ve built with a touch of hubris. Look at what we’ve accomplished! Our machines defy gravity. We shape and alter our environment like no other creature on our planet (not always for the better). When it seems like we have nothing else to master, conquer, or vanquish, we aim higher and master, conquer, and vanquish more.
Except a thunderstorm. They reduce us to simpler lifeforms turned and tossed by water, wind, and an occasional electrostatic discharge. We can’t prevent it. We can’t reduce the intensity of the storm. We can’t change the direction or personality of the storm. All we can do is sit back and enjoy it.
This evening’s storm dissolved over the bay. I will have to wait for the sanctity of another storm on another day…or will I? Looking at the radar on last time—perhaps more reliable than the evening songbirds—the storm line intensifies through the center of the state.
Maybe I’ll stay up a while and see what happens.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.