A lot of you probably won’t believe the story that I am about to tell you, but whether you believe or not doesn’t change the fact that it did happen to me.
I used to be terrified of thunderstorms. Especially thunderstorms at night. If one woke me up, I would always go and find my mother in the living room if it was earlier at night, or go down to my parents bedroom if it was later at night. I could not stay in my room. There were many nights that I spent on the floor of my parents bedroom. My parents tried everything to get me to get over my fear of these storms. They used to tell me that the thunder was just angels bowling. When I was a bit older they encouraged me to do a report on thunderstorms for school figuring if I learned what they were and why they happened, that I might not be as frightened by them.
But all of this was somewhat spoiled by what a big deal my dad would make about storms. He used to work in a TV repair shop when I was younger, and so he would see plenty of TVs come in fried because people left them plugged in during a lightning storm. So at the first hints of a storm, all the electronics would be unplugged. My dad would also get up and pace around the house from window to window, watching the storm in what seemed like worry to me when I was younger. Now, as I find myself mirroring the same behavior, I realize that it was a mixture of excitement, fascination, with just a little bit of worry mixed in.
Then there were the storms that taught me that I should fear them. The severe thunderstorms that would rage directly over our house, where even the living room with both of my parents in it wasn’t a safe place to be. There was one storm where were all in the living room together, spread out across the room, waiting out the storm. And then there was an extremely loud BOOM and the house was shaking, and we were all yelling, and above the sound of all of us yelling my dad was yelling for us kids to run to him and my mother. And run we did, and we scrambled next to an armchair that was in the room and my parents shielded us. And in my memories of that moment, the moment before the dash for the other side of the room and the dash itself, everything seems *sideways*. It seems off kilter. As if our house were suddenly a ship and we were listing to starboard. I know that the house didn’t move, other than violently shaking from lightning that struck just a few feet away from it, but that is how things look in my memories… now that I think about it, I was still fairly young when that storm happened, but I remember hearing about a storm where our well which was buried right in front of a huge pine tree got hit in a storm… I think the pine got hit and it traveled to the well… perhaps there was a very good reason for the house to shake as violently as it did.
There was also a morning where I was watching a storm from a window in the living room, I was a bit older at this point and my feelings about storms were beginning to change. Some of my father’s fascination was starting to rub off on me. So I was standing there at the window, probably way too close and I think I had my hands on the top of the bottom window. (We had windows that opened upwards, the bottom part sliding up.) My father had just walked into the living room doorway, and then there was a loud crack very, very close. Only the memory of this isn’t as clear, as I couldn’t remember the next few seconds right after they happened. I remember the crack and then my dad is farther into the room and looking at me funny and asking if I’m alright. I replied that I was, and laughed a little. And then realized that I felt like I was buzzing. I’m not saying that I got struck by lightning, but I think that something very close by got struck and as I was touching the window and the window sill, which both had metal in them, some of that dissipating energy flowed through me. It was probably the equivalent of a very, very strong static shock. Just an odd experience that I never really thought about much and went on with my day. But I know that something happened to me from my father asking if I was okay.
I remember a moment when I was a bit older standing with my father in our backyard, just outside our backdoor, watching a severe thunderstorm slowly roll in toward us. The excitement that exuded from my father as he kept saying that we should go in soon, but just a little bit longer, as the storm drew closer and closer and the winds began to pick up, and the sky above us began to darken. We watched the distant lightning, and my dad would do his counting trick to see how long the thunder took to reach us and then calculate the distance the storm was from us. Until eventually the lighting and the sound the thunder came too close together and we had to retreat to the relative safety of our house. And watch the storm through the windows.
Then there was the night that I set out to talk about when I first started writing this. I was a teenager by this time, and while storms still made me nervous (as all loud things do) there was far more fascination at this point than anything else. Besides, by this time I had a Walkman and Metallica cassette tapes. The thunder is not as ominous when you hear it through music. My bed at the time was pressed up against one wall and there was a window along the right side of the foot of my bed. I was lying on my stomach at the foot of my bed, looking out upon the strong New England summer thunderstorm that was raging outside my window in my backyard. I was listening to Metallica blasting through my headphones and getting lost in the music… and I noticed that the storm was synching up with the music. I felt in tune with the storm, I felt energized and refreshed by the storm. I watched the wind and the rain, and I pointed in time with a particular part of the music I was listening to. And there where I pointed in the sky, lightning appeared. I pointed again, excited and yet totally relaxed at the same time. More lightning, when I pointed, where I pointed. And again, and again. At one point, three streaks of lightning across the sky. And there is no fear anymore, only appreciation for the beauty of the storm. Only the calming energy that I find that I can get from these storms. And slowly the moment fades and the storm begins to move on and fade away.
And now, to this day, since I have moved to the relative desert of Northern Utah I have discovered that I start to get upset when we don’t get rain for a while. Rainy days make me happy. They refresh me and recharge me. But if we don’t get a good thunderstorm for a while, I really start to unravel. I need to watch the lightning, listen to the wind and the rain and the thunder. I can sit and watch a storm for hours, and I will come away calmer and energized. I have never had another experience like the one that night while listening to the music while watching the storm, but I can still lose myself in a storm. I will find myself having to remind myself that it’s not safe to watch the thunderstorm from my 3rd floor metal balcony just because the view is better there and if I reach out my hand, I can feel the rain. And so I retreat inside, where I will sit on the floor in front of my sliding glass door and watch the beauty of the storm.