Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Well, I Love a Rainy Night

Or, in this case, I love a rainy morning. I woke up this morning to an overcast sky and a warning breeze blowing through the screen doors. By the time I got the kids downstairs and ready for breakfast, the skies opened up and it poured. And then came the thunder and lightning. And what thunder and lightning it was! The first flash was incredibly bright, and I thought to myself, “Wow, this one’s going to be a doozie.” And about eight seconds later, a rolling thunderclap shook the house. When it started the kids both stared at me with uncertain expressions, like when they fall down and aren’t sure whether to cry or not. And just like that situation, I was able to stave off their tears by my reaction – in this case, by clapping excitedly and announcing, “Thunder!!!!” Both kids immediately grinned and clapped along with me.

When I was small, no-one had to convince me that storms weren’t scary. For all that I was terrified of the noise of fireworks, I was never bothered by thunder. I loved to stand in the window with the lights off and watch storms outside. And I have never grown out of that delight. Thunderstorms, hailstorms, snowstorms, windstorms – it doesn’t matter. Any time the sky puts on a show, I want to watch. And listen.

Listening is the reason that thunderstorms top my list of exciting weather phenomena. The whistle of a windstorm or hurricane is cool, the muffled near-silence of a snowstorm is fascinating, the plink-plunk of hailstones hitting their target is marvelous, but thunder is different. Thunder has…personality. It can be a single, resounding clap, or a long rumble that builds in intensity, or a few overlapping slams. Plus, thunder has an opening act – a herald, if you will. You get a second of advance warning on thunder. The lightning that precedes it is like the starter of a race announcing, “On your mark, get set, go!” You know to stop and listen for it. I love that.

Plus, thunder is informative. Who among us has never counted the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to calculate how far away the storm is? Who among us has never mentally compared succeeding thunderclaps to determine whether the storm is getting closer or moving away? You can’t trust how loud or soft the thunder is to determine distance, but you can be absolutely sure if you use the time between the lightning and the thunder. Meteorology + math = fun!

So I am sitting in my office with the window open and the lights off, listening to the muffled roar of thunder and feeling a vague disappointment as it recedes into the distance. The concert is coming to an end. But it’s still summer in New England, and I know there are more stormy mornings yet to come. And I’ll be listening for them.

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