People who know me well – friends, family, a smattering of long time wordpress followers – all know my eyes light up at the slightest hint of inclement weather. I blame it on a lightning bolt striking a tree next to our house. Not more than 7 or 8 years old – to this day I can effortlessly recall details as if watching a movie. Something happened the instant lightning bolt throttled our house. Waves of sonic energy, impossibly white light – both mediocre opening acts for the headlining electrical charge passing through my body. Every hair stood tall, proudly saluting lightning bolt as my siblings shrieked in horror.
I didn’t want to stay in the house, need comforting, or understand why going outside was a bad idea. It wasn’t enough to hear the wind, I needed to feel it. Hail the size of marbles called my name, my Mother thought I was hysterical – she had that right. Attempting reason in the midst of extraordinary circumstances tends to make children a little high strung.
It didn’t really matter, I kept my mouth shut and nurtured the gift of weather. Before lightning bolt, weather consisted of simple one word descriptions – cloudy, sunny, hot, cold, windy – unimaginative, monochromatic characterizations lacking the vivid nuances lightning bolt kindly brought to my attention.
I found myself waking in the middle of the night, acutely aware of wind patterns, holding my breath, waiting for nature’s hush – that moment of utter stillness before a thunder storm. Before long, my new found sky palette introduced colours intricately woven with purpose – no longer blue or gray; lightning bolt let me see hundreds of pigment variations, each with a mission I was beginning to understand.
I never talked about it, didn’t ponder the possibility it was all part of growing up, People would say “what a beautiful sunset” – I wanted to ask if they knew what it was saying. Birds warned me of approaching storms; rarely able to thank them before catching a nostril full of “storm air”. Above all, I lived for the thrill of electrical charges – those subtle moments imagining static electricity is responsible for goosebumps and my goofy grin.
In Havana a few years ago, tropical storm Emily passed over the city. I stood on the hotel roof deck, utterly mesmerized by funnel clouds lazily deciding where to touch down against a violent background of lightning. Aware on some level my hands gripped the railing in defiance of wind gusts, blinding rain and deafening thunder. I remember shouting, not registering it was directed at me until hotel staff literally pulled me from the roof. I sulked all the way to my room, arriving just in time to reach the window as lightning hit the building next door. Metal framed glasses in one hand – electricity traveled up my arm – it tingled for over an hour. Without question, one of my happiest days.
When I retire, nothing would suit me better than to be a storm chaser. Thank you lightning bolt.
teakdoor.com – Time lapse of a tree hit by lightning.