A perfect storm
The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right. – Mark Twain
With the Winter That Would Not Go Away finally fading in our rearview mirror, we can at last enjoy some summertime. And summer means warmer weather and a juicier atmosphere, which means higher probabilities of thunderstorms. Which delights me to no end, because hardly anything gives me more enjoyment that a boisterous, rip-roaring lightning storm.
This is a foolish thing to take pleasure in. It’s not like you can collect lightning bolts and put them in a jar on the mantle. Nor can a person tame lightning and teach it to do tricks, such as giving a small zap a to friend’s heinie when he isn’t looking. But what fun that would be during a backyard barbecue!
Lightning and thunder have been explained numerous ways throughout the centuries. When I was a little kid, someone — probably an older sister who knew full well that I would believe anything — told me that thunder was merely the sound of God bowling. It was humbling to think that the Almighty would choose to play a game of ten pins directly above our humble little farm.
Other fanciful explanations for lightning and thunder include Thor swinging his mountain-smashing hammer. This must be so, because there certainly aren’t many mountains hereabouts.
These mythological interpretations for lightning may not be accurate. But they are much more truthful than what I believed through grade school, which was a huge giant rubbing his feet on a cosmic carpet, then touching a brass doorknob.
We all realize that lightning can be dangerous. But this knowledge only adds to the thrill of watching an energetic thunderstorm.
And with this danger comes a certain beauty. What is more awe-inspiring than a bolt of electricity that shoots from horizon to horizon, lighting up the entire night sky? Add to that a Boom! you can feel deep in your chest cavity and you have the recipe for a cut-rate fireworks show.
Lightning has been historically used to portend future events. This has personally happened to me several times.
One June night when I was a kid, we had a boots-and-all thunderstorm. Awakened by the clamor, I went to my bedroom window to watch the celestial light show.
No sooner had I pressed my nose against the glass than I was blinded by a bright flash that was accompanied by an evil ssst! The thunder, which arrived instantly, threw me back from the window.
A utility pole that sat fifty feet from the house had been hit. The electric transformer at the top the pole was fountaining sparks and shooting flames. I took this as a sign that we wouldn’t have electricity again until we received a visit from a utility crew.
Another clear indicator from the heavens came when I was a teenager. I was planting corn on a hilltop field when storm clouds gathered and enormous sparks began to leap from cloud to cloud. When it got to the point where I could hear — and feel — the thunder over the racket of the tractor’s engine, I knew it was time to head home.
Safely in the farmyard, I glanced back at the field I had been planting. A forked tongue of fire flicked from the cloud base and licked the hilltop. I shivered to contemplate what might have happened to a person sitting out there atop a three-ton hunk of steel.
Thirty-some springs ago, I was doing chores on my little dairy farm when a strong thunderstorm arose. As I watched, a particular bolt of lightning dropped from the sky. It appeared to hit somewhere in the nearby town.
It had. A particular apartment house had been struck, the lightning coming down its chimney and setting the structure afire.
In that particular apartment building there lived a particular girl who had been spending a particularly large amount of time with me. The thunderbolt rendered her suddenly homeless.
I invited her to move out to my farmhouse, assuring her that I had plenty of space. And, as a bachelor, I also had plenty of bad habits that she could help me conquer.
Are you sure about this? she asked as we loaded her meager and smoke-infused possessions.
Of course I am, I replied. You can’t argue with a sign from above!
This turned out to be so, because that particular girl became my wife and we are still a couple. Good call, Thor!
Or, as Twain once said, Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work.
If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org