between the lightning and the thunder

I love sunshine in a fierce way. I’ve never lived for more than a year in a place with distinct seasons, so the thing where I need sunshine and warmth is deep in me, in blood and bones and sinews. In the summer months here, in southern California, it gets to be intense, and I go back and forth between needing to be out under the big brightness of it all and feeling a little weary of it, starting at the skin.

We’ve been in a late-summer heatwave, which probably happens every summer, but which I always forget in time for it to happen the next year. I look at the weather app on my phone and that row of plain, unvarnished suns over the next ten days starts to feel oppressive, like ten yellow-eyed cyclopses glaring. We were promised rain on Tuesday. I took it like a promise anyway, so when the thundercloud disappeared, replaced by a yellow eyeball, I felt betrayed.

Monday was a good day. Busy, but the kind where I felt reasonably accomplished and checked things off lists and thought maybe I have this life and adulthood thing managed for once. I sat on my bed, hunkering from the heat in a sports bra and shorts, telling myself I would go for a run in just a minute, but I stopped short when I heard it start, the concatenated patting sounds on roof and paving stone and gravel. Rain always seems to pat first before it pelts.

I think I did run–outside, anyway, to squat on the stoop with my book and feel the water on my skin. I sat and watched the sky and the clouds moving in the dusk. As the night pressed in a little, lightning flashes came. I counted the seconds in one-one-thousands between the lightning and the thunder to see how far away the storm was, hoping the number would shrink and I’d find myself in a real honest-to-goodness downpour. I thought of my life in storms: sitting on the roof of the houseboat on Lake Powell watching lightning flashing off the cliff walls and the water rolling in great sheets down the sandstone, stomach clenched in a delicious fear; the wind that rose all of a sudden and whipped the cab door back in my face, and the rain that drenched me on the 30-foot walk to my office door under a green Washington, D.C., sky; the great wall of rain on the Kansas plains that woke up my cousin and made everything around my little car blindingly gray; the wide open sky-cracking thunder we felt from the safety of the porch of a little hotel on Maryland’s eastern shore. I’ve never gotten out of the habit of counting the seconds.

The Monday night storm was more like a not-really storm. It never pelted the way I wanted it to. But there was a piece of magic on that stoop, in my little yard that feels like it opens onto my own patch of sky. Contentment hung in the air like a mist, and I called it good.

* * *

I just wrote this, but it came in dribs and drabs instead of an outpouring, kind of like my not-storm. I’m a little rusty, it seems, or maybe I’ve been spending a lot of words and brainpower too many other places. Linking up with Heather and the gang, Tuesday or otherwise, because these are my people and I like to be among them.

2 Responses to between the lightning and the thunder

  1. We’ve been in a long, long heat-wavy summer (for Seattle, that is, where heat waves are 85+ — few people have air conditioning up here, so it counts). We had our first real cool-down this week with rain that misted the roads continuously and made things feel green again. We even had some thunder! Rare in these parts. But I grew up in the Midwest, so I know the whole counting-the-seconds thing.

    I’m glad for a break from those glaring yellow eyeballs too.

    • Sharone says:

      85 is ridiculously hot for the Pacific Northwest! I was there for a May wedding a couple years ago and flew from 85-95 degree temperatures here to 50-60 in Seattle. Let’s just say I was cold every single second. But the no thunder thing…that’s the thing I’m not sure I could take! If it’s going to rain all the time, I feel like there should at least be some excitement to compensate. :) I’m glad you’ve finally seen the end of your heatwave.

      This has been my first summer in a really long time where there’s been crazy heat and I haven’t had central air. Those yellow eyeballs felt increasingly like the eyes of despair. I hate them and I’m happy they’re (mostly) gone. I’m already starting to feel the pinch of the shorter days, but after this summer, waking up to 55 degrees is a pretty good compensation for having to bust out the headlamp on my night runs.

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