The forecast predicts thunderstorms beginning – now. Weathermen are notoriously inaccurate, but the alchemy has improved since I was a child. Currently, it is bright out, but grey, misty, heavy, and very warm. An altogether beautiful day. The occasional raindrop falls, but no thunder. It would be difficult to see lightening in this glare.
Thunderstorms terrified me as a girl, actually well into my teens. Midwestern thunderstorms are rapid, violent, rending activities, full of boisterous cloud movements and a respectable amount of rain. They bring tornadoes with them. The thunderstorms themselves weren’t so frightening to me – it was the potential for tornadoes. I tried to explain this to the people around me, but the concept seemed irrelevant to them. They considered me to be a foolish, ridiculous kid, and responded accordingly.
Here’s the thing about tornadoes: there is no protection against them. The Weather Channel will tell you when a hurricane comes, and modern building codes can withstand virtually any earthquake. But a tornado – well, one can only hope there is a sturdy basement nearby, and that there is time enough to get into it. Tornadoes are wantonly destructive, leaving one house in the midst of ten other destroyed homes. There is no distinction between houses; they are all alike. But one is spared and the others all damned.
I found this horrifying.
I still do, to be truthful. I think that the only change is that now I understand that life, or luck, or Providence, is wanton, inherently. One can “do all the right things” and catastrophe will appear anyway. One can be a dilettante, a fool and come out on top. Fear of the arbitrary only prevents one from mounting an adequate response. It is useless and sometimes harmful. Better to put fear aside, pick up resignation if necessary, and carry on.
So, I carry on. This shift in attitude does not explain my current love of thunderstorms, however. Yes, indeed, I do love them. I hope for them, miss them even when they are absent. True, East Coast thunderstorms are not nearly as spectacular as their western relations, but tornadoes have been recorded in New England.
Far from accommodating the metaphor, I now embrace it. The energy blown off in these gusts and rumbles is invigorating. The potential for devastation is beautiful in its fury. And the lightening looks like fireworks in the night sky. It is lovely. Absolutely lovely.
Storms are a great equalizer. They are democratic. They do not discriminate. It rains on the well and the ill, the fortunate and the miserable. They remind us that whatever comforts we have to protect ourselves, however fancy our walls and battlements, we are all the same essentially under the heavens.