Weather and I have had a contentious relationship since I was a kid ranging from Godzilla/Tornado nightmares brought on by the usual suspects to blizzards that ruined birthdays and snowstorms that activated my asthma. I had a thunderstorm phobia for a very long time, but it lessened after I had been outside in them, my tender parts exposed to lash of the lightning, deafening thunder, but … it didn’t kill me. It was time to let go of the terror.
I remember Mom Mom showing me the dryer lid, cratered and black like the mare of the moon, courtesy of ball lightning. I remember one vicious storm when my son was a baby, still bottle feeding, its intensity was singular. I sat in the middle of the living room, holding him, watching the lightning blind the world. One stroke was so bright and powerful I thought for sure it hit a tree outside, but no. Everything was okay. I recall a thunderstorm in Tennessee whose presence could only be the Stone Giants from Tolkiens’ Hobbit. There could be no other explanation for the gashing and cracking that would surely send our cabin into the ravine.
Living here on the Chesapeake bay I have learned that there are no buffers between us and the weather. No big buildings, no hills, trees or mountains to buffer the fury of the lightning and accompanying thunder. There were only a couple of mouthy lightning storms last year, so I learned how to deal with it: sleep on the couch with a light on. Yesterday I heard we were going to get some rain around 4AM, okay, no biggie, but there was no severe weather predicted. Right around 5:30 a thunderstorm rolled in. I could hear it through all the windows I keep open now that the temperature is mild. I watched the sky flash with heat lightning and didn’t think much of it, heard a thunder rumble, but I got up, got dressed, and went outside to survey anyway. And then the real shit started.
I sat at the table near my windows and watched the lightning vary from silent flashing somersaults, cloud bling, to a little more aggressive light and a thunder reply. Then the lightning decided to take victims, spears of anger, random, or not random, striking or not striking but blinding and angry nonetheless. Thunder, lightning’s handmaid, tore everything, followed instantly or sometimes with a respectful pause. (No one steals lightning’s thunder, are you kidding?) I stood in my bedroom doorway and watched the lightning seek ground for victims, all our ears in these buildings alert, at attention, and changing our morning routines because no one can sleep through this. The wind became strong and the rain followed, but this is nothing. This activity was more dangerous than a hurricane, and I managed through a hurricane which is a lot of heavy wind and drenching rain, but not lightning that’s stalking blinded, deafened victims. I stood in a doorway away from the windows, phone in my pocket, because this was a fight club like I’d never seen before, and even my neighbors who’ve lived here a decade said the same: Sounds like somebody’s bombing the naval base. I made my peace with god because I felt like this one was going to tear off the top of us, and that is saying something. The storm was a procession of M80s in front of of us, on top of us, behind us, unannounced, blinding, and paving the way for a ripping thunder that claws its way from sky down below the foundations of this building, the floor shaking beneath my feet. And it takes so long for the worst to pass. One last grenade and it’s done. Wasn’t it? Then the birds started to tweet, the usual suspects at this half-dark time of morning, giving absolutely no f*cks that their tree was on the death star radar. Yeah. Figures. One last M80, like a final eff-you to the area, and all that was left was rain.