nothing stays the same
monotonous hours thunder
across my bed sheets
Many people I know, some closely related to me, are afraid of thunderstorms, .
There’s a story in our family about my uncle who had a dairy farm in Beech Flats, Pennsylvania. An outdoor man, his face wind-kissed, his hands as work-worn as his denim shirt and pants, he lived in a cotton candy pink house. He spent most of his days on the rolling, green mountains or in his shadowed barn. Except during a storm. One such time, he was sitting on the toilet, doing his number two business when a thunderstorm reared its ugly head. A strike hit the ground, entered the water pipes and shot his ass out through the open bathroom door and across the house into the livingroom. It split the throne in half. My mother claimed to have witnessed the incident.
We were forever forbidden to go potty in a thunderstorm. And no talking on the phone, either. My mother’s fear of lightning was pathological. She’d call us at the onset of the meteorological event to warn us of impending doom and spend thirty minutes telling us to stay safe.
I have no such fears. In fact, I love savage storms.
One exciting night, I was in a Freightliner tractor in a thunderstorm in New York City. The truck was not tethered to a loaded trailer, so it rocked and bucked in the wind as bursts of current flashed around me. I tingled from my toes to the ends of my hair.
I spent many of my formative years with my Oma in Hallein, Austria. Her apartment sat along the Salzach river at the base of the Dürrnberg. Like so many buildings in the town, it was built from the stone of the surrounding alpine massifs. Walls were eighteen inches thick. Window sills were more like seats.
When thunderstorms hit, I looked out the unshuttered window towards the mountain and the sound would vibrate all around, coming up through the ground and entering the building, finding affinity with long-lost bits torn off over five hundred years ago. The air moved from the noise and the river would fill up with brown, churning, violent water. The wind smelled of ozone and mud and I lost myself in the awesome violence.
I saw the lightning as an assault of light and color. Flashes of white would form as streaks of rainbow color on the inside of my eyelids. The sky and my retina’s canvas were washed in deep, pulsating purples so dark they resembled an oil slick sliced by the abrupt up stroke of electricity zig-zaggy its way from the ground into the heavens. I shook and vibrated, my mouth filled with the metallic flavor of blood and my nostrils flared with the tang of ozone.
Ironically, the noise did not register. I didn’t hear the crack of a whip or shot of a gun. I never had to cover my ears with my hands. Instead, the echoes traveled from rocky peak to granite tower, rolling down slate slopes and swollen streams to disgorge boulders and jolts where I stood, quivering and trembling.