I don’t usually post my writing on here, but I rather like this and think it’s kind of outdoorsy enough to fit in here. So here you go.
The day had been hot, high 90s, and colorado-summer-dry. The kind of dry that cracks skin to bleeding and the blood just dries right up, a quick rust spot on crackling skin. I woke from my usual afternoon nap confused – already darkening at 5:30? Odd. A glance out my closed window set reality straight: gathering clouds, not a supernatural sunset, were the cause of preemptive evening. I settled in for an unambitious evening of tv, solo. I cracked a corona and slipped my headphones over a toppling bun.
A few episodes later, I became of a low background noise; removing the headphones, I recognized it as thunder, remarkably consistent and still far-off. I checked the window – still dark, no sign of the sky behind the wall. Headphones back on.
Not too much later I found myself standing at the window watching the world rage outside. Rain, precursor to quarter-sized hail, slammed the tin roof over the porch, amplified. I watched trees’ dark silhouettes thrash and flutter, all panic, in the gusts. The lightning was constant, as was the thunder. Serious thunder, too, not pleasant summer rumbles. These were sucker punches to the lower atmosphere, thick and simmering, blasting the air molecules into a sonic boom to tear through the city and crash up against the mountains. Cracks, too, terrible rips in the seams of the sky that translated directly to your own body, vibrating thoroughly. Shakes. I could just picture fiery meteors blasting out of the broiling sky in an end-all apocalyptic storm.
After some time, I stepped out onto the back stoop, warm cement on bare calloused feet. The air was so much heavier than earlier, carrying a warm moistness unfamiliar to the usual desert air. It smelled all of wet ground and slick rocks. It carried the soundwaves of fire engines wooo-ing through the streets. Downed power lines probably, and hopefully no new fires.
The sky, tinged greyish purple from the sunset which must lay somewhere behind it all and the faint straining city lights below, offered 360 degrees of lightning in all forms. Cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, vague bright flashes like bombs and fireworks, sustained scars of heavenly illumination. Long strikes to be sure, longest I’d seen. Still the thunder rolled on, always.
I wondered what terrible menace must be blowing through the mountains thousands of feet above, to have this as the afterthought to the east.
I watched the world beyond the front range flicker and glow like some great forge, the whipping wind its bellows, the rockies its anvil. And who wields the hammer – ?
I felt the wind pick up and the temperature drop and I was glad I was not in the mountains at that particular moment.
As a child, I had always been terrified of the inevitable summer storms common to michigan. The sky would darken, the winds would rise and twirl around in all directions, the leaves would show their telltale lighter sides – I’d feel the mercury falling and slam my windows shut to stare fearfully out at the force of nature outside. I feared trees crashing into my bedroom. I saw tornadoes forming in every cloud. I had an emergency backpack ready to go in case we had to evacuate. Yes, those storms shook me to my eight-year-old core.
Then one day, as the air cooled and the clouds began to build and I prepared to rush into the basement, flashlight in hand and stuffed bunny in the crook of my arm, my father led me firmly to the front porch, to the rail, and instructed me to watch the storm. Reluctantly I stayed. The drops began to fall and the first rumbles reached our ears. The clouds grew dark grey and the trees began their demonic twisting dance and the rain began to splatter my toes and legs and arms but I stayed. The clouds weren’t quite so dark from out there, where you could see the whole sky and watch everything build up in its crescendo, and the wind wasn’t so threatening when you felt it on your own skin. The trees exaggerated its intensity. The wind-chime bell on the top rail rang out the storm’s progress and narrated its eventual decrescendo. The rain faded to fat drips and the air was slow and sweet and moist as it heated back up, steam rising from the blacktop driveways as the sun peeked back out and almost always gave us a pale rainbow to the east.
There was still lightning, but far less frequent and I hadn’t heard but faint grumblings for some time. The trees were still and their leaves and the roofs were dripping slowly, content. The moths were back out, fluttering around the porch light. The sun had set for sure. I turned and quit the stoop, back in to the air conditioning where it didn’t smell of rain. Show’s over for tonight.