July 11, 2008

I’m writing this post while a fading thunderstorm is dumping it’s moisture on a parched landscape just outside my patio door; Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue is on the CD player, and at least for right now, my thoughts are all of and about thunderstorms. And family. And how fortunate I have been.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with thunderstorms. There are few – if any – sounds that bring such a sense of peace, contentment, awe, and humility as the sound of thunder in the distance. At night, the Kodak flash of distant lightning lighting up the sky softly (I remember my grandfather and dad both called it “heat lightning”) used to fill me with a awe and joy, it’s so hard to explain. When I was growing up, our house had a north-facing porch, and at the first sight of a blackening sky, my grandfather would be out on the porch, watching, waiting. I think he was a true thunderstorm rat – perhaps my dad too – and it has rubbed off on me, big time.

I guess if I had ever had a son the two most important loves I would have passed on to him was the love of the ocean and the love of thunderstorms.

Of course, the majority of thunderstorms we would get in New England were of the garden variety – the sky would gradually darken, the sound of distant thunder would gradually draw closer, and with it the first flashes of lightning, and then, just before the arrival of the first drops of rain, the wind would rise, and it was time to get under cover. God, I loved the feeling of those kinds of storms.

When we lived in Kentucky, thunderstorms there had a bit of a different quality – especially in the months of March and April, when it wasn’t all about fun – especially when the wind would come out of the Southwest. Tornado weather. There was a level of intensity in those storms that you never quite got in New England. It took me a little time, but after a while I got to figure out the storms there pretty good – the ones you should never fool around with, the ones that would look bad, but just drop a ton of rain.

In Kentucky, when the sky turned more of a greenish black it was time to pay attention – but even then you never really knew. I remember one time the sky to our west, just over the blue hills of Indiana, turned an ominous shade of greenish black. Our neighbor Jana came running over to tell us to get under cover and the rabbits in the bathtub, but I knew nothing was going to come of it. Then there was that January day where all of a sudden our weather radio started going nuts, and we turned on the TV to hear that a tornado had touched down about ten miles away from us. When we got the hail, Tracey was starting to gather the rabbits up (we had nine at the time!), but I told her not to worry; I just had a feeling nothing was going to come of it. And I was right – but boy, did it rain that night!

Here in Arizona, we’re getting an early start to the monsoon season, but the thunderstorms we get seem to drop more dust and/or rain than anything else. When we bought our house, our real estate guy told us we didn’t have to worry about severe thunderstorms here in west Gilbert, that the bad thunderstorms would always travel east and north of us. I have to say, so far he’s been right. We had one storm that turned our backyard into a lake, and another storm where the lightning and thunder came so close together that Tracey dropped one of her favorite martini glasses to the pavement with a crash. But other than that, I’d have to say that the thunderstorms around here have been a fair disappointment – part of the reason being, it’s so damned hot that the A/C is always on so you don’t hear the storms as well as you might somewhere else.

There is one memory I cherish so dearly and will never forget. It is a Sunday night, and I’m probably ten or so – maybe a little older. My folks and my aunt, uncle and cousins (with whom we shared a two-story house in Tewksbury, Massachusetts) are out playing badminton in our backyard, and the hibachi is going. To our east, a huge thunderhead is glistening radiant salmon-colored in the sunset over the Shawsheen School. I remember pointing it out to my mom, and she telling me that those clouds were the gates of heaven. My memory of that moment is thinking that God had to have been present in something so awesome and so beautiful. And how I wanted to be a part of that God somehow. Whenever I see thunderheads brightly painted against the sky, I know I’ll always think of my mom and that memory in time.

So thunderstorms are like a family to me, drawing me back into happy memories of the past. I love them almost as much as the sea, and never get tired of them. It is, I believe, a sign of God’s omnipotence, power, glory, and mercy in a world that could always use a little more humilty.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments (3)
  1. Doug,

    We were such thunderstorm fanatics growing up, we’d be playing outside during them!

    I remember one such storm (still going on) that sent so much refuse down the street that the storm drain was blocked at Main Street and flooded the area. We went down there in bare feet while the storm was still raging and cleared out the (metal – real smart) drain to let water flow again.

    Unfortunately, none of my thunderstorm genes have transferred to my girls. The nice thing about living in Georgia is that we get some real doozys down here (if you ignore the occasional tornado or two that might accompany them).

    Comment by Dave Richard — July 11, 2008 @ 3:03 am

  2. Doug:

    I have that same feeling about God in thunderstorms and good old New England blizzards.


    Comment by JP — July 11, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys! I remember that particular storm my bro is talking about – we were up to our knees in water because the storm drains had backed up. A cool memory.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — July 12, 2008 @ 11:29 am

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