Member Rara Avis
I like a good thunderstorm. I especially like a good thunderstorm in the wake of an oppressively hot and humid August day in Michigan. A cold front sweeps in from the Northeast, picking up moisture off Lake Michigan, then hits our hot air like a high-speed Amtrak colliding with a barely struggling freight train. The inevitable result is a release of energy in the form of rain, hail, winds, thunder ...
... and lightning.
When I know a squall is imminent, as I learned one was about nine o'clock tonight, I head for the garage. I like to sit just inside the open garage door, where I can feel the shadows of wind and rain on my face, safe from the full fury of the storm but close enough to know my protection is really only an illusion of civilization. Tonight's storm passed quickly, fifty mile an hour winds coming first from the North, cracking the heavy rain like a whip, then as the line of energy passed over our heads, changing direction and coming equally strong from the South. Fifteen-year-old silver maples, normally towering over the garage roof, bowed to the storm, first one way, then the other.
Soon enough, the rain died to a drizzle and the winds became a brisk and very welcomingly cool breeze. The temperature had dropped twenty degrees in as many minutes. I grabbed my doffed jacket, my unused flashlight, my bottle of now lukewarm Lipton, and headed reluctantly back to the house.
I didn't make it, though, not immediately. My garage doors face North, and as I exited and glanced South, into the retreating storm front, I was bedazzled by the most prodigious display of natural fireworks I have ever seen in my entire life. I stood there long moments, watching. Then I returned to the garage long enough to grab a chair and move it to the middle of my front yard. I just spent almost an hour staring into the face of God.
The lightning was so high in the sky that the thunder was little more than a rumble, like a distant sound the mind can't quite place. The most amazing thing was the constancy of the light. It would pale, it would dim, it would brighten to the point of burning itself into my retinas, but never did it seem to ever darken beyond what seemed an artificial dusk. Most of the lightning was hidden far behind lower storm clouds, highlighting the dark frothy shapes as if they, and not the lightning, were the star of the show. The braver fingers of jagged light, though, would leap from one dark cloud mass to another, sometimes sideways, sometimes straight up as if trying to reach the heavens, sometimes, and frighteningly, towards the Earth. Every few moments, almost as if two or three bolts collided in an attempt to claim the same point in space, a jagged starburst of lightning would explode. I dared not blink. I think I hardly managed to breath.
It was at once beautiful, awe inspiring, and absolutely humbling.