I watch lightning.
For all of my life, few natural phenomena give me such a thrill as lightning and thunder. Its fundamental randomness renders it superior to any fireworks display, that and each bolt’s brevity; each gives you half a second or so to absorb, as you begin to count down the distance. After that, the bolt is gone, as certainly as a wave is gone once it surges ashore. It is a thing, created in an instant and lost without trace when the sound rumbles away.
I sit or stand, choose a likely area of sky, and stare. Sometimes it comes with a mild or distant flash. Other times it comes bright and nearby, a sudden white crack spreading and forking across the heavens, as if they were giving way at a line of fracture. The imminent thunder confirms the sensation, at times rumbling, at times booming. All our works, all our technologies and engineering, and still I must disconnect my computer from the wall unless I want to risk my primary writing tool.
I watch lightning, and it feels as though an angry divinity were pitching a colossal, god-sized temper fit. I can stand out in the midst of it without fear, without feeling chill from the acute soaking rain and its bald-spot-seeking drops. The last thing I desire is to take cover; not only are statistics on my side, if one has to go, I can think of few more sublime ways to pass on. If I cannot feel the rain and humidity of the storm, I did not truly experience it.
We get not so much lightning here in eastern Washington, but back in Kansas it means business. I recall a visit to my grandparents when the storm was loud and bright enough to jolt me out of bed at 2 AM, lightning and thunder alike both constant. It occurred to me that I could easily read a book to this display without turning on a lamp. For two hours I did just that, one of the redolent old tomes from my grandfather’s western-inspired library.
I find that with any climatic situation of extremes, there are two reactions: huddle against it, or soak it in. Sip it gingerly as if forced, or tilt your chin toward the skies and pound the whole thing, yelling for more? Huddle and shiver against the cold, or breathe deeply and feel the ice? Shake one’s fist at the flaming star, or bask in it and battle on? Hiss curses at the downpour, or splash through it? They relate to our ways of living life, and in rather too many aspects of life I sip gingerly. In all those aspects, I take more harm and discomfort from my gingerness than from what I forced down my throat. In those aspects where I guzzle the whole quart and give a cheer, I do better. I emerge from them somewhat more bruised, and gods know what I did to my system, but exhilarated and suffused with adventure. We might liken life to trying a series of drugs. Do you split the tablets, just try a bit, or do you just swallow the stuff and hang on?
The stream of thought reminds me of the words of an ancient woman, in her nineties, asked what she would do different were she to take the walk of life again. One line: “I would have more real worries, but less imaginary ones.”
Well said, ma’am. Well said indeed.