Thursday, May 28, 2009

Echoes of Thunder

In the midst of a thunderstorm here, one of those natural phenomena that never fail to impress me no matter how many times I see it. Sort of like Niagara Falls, which I had the good fortune to grow up close enough to, so that I've been to see it probably a dozen times in my life. (Which I was grateful for the last time I was there and able to remember what it looked like on the Canadian side before they commercialized the heck out of it. Casinos are evil, pernicious things. Just saying.) Thunderstorms are far less regular, and I can't simply hop in the car and go see one, but they do happen here reasonably often in the summer.

I've also been to Southern Florida, where the afternoon thunderstorm is part of daily life there when the weather turns right. You can watch them form out over the ocean or the Gulf, depending on which side you're on, and see them coming for miles. They churn and color the waves beneath them which adds to the beauty of them... unless you're on a boat out there, of course, when it just becomes scary.

I suspect, too, though I've never been there to witness one, that a thunderstorm out in the Great Plains might well be something similar. Out there in the summer you also have to worry that each storm might bring a tornado, which as impressive as they are is not something I wish to experience any more first hand than I already have - which has been at a distance. Out there, like on the ocean, you can see forever, and so I imagine the flash you see and the thunder you hear could pass you by entirely as you watched it from a distance.

Here at home, I don't really have an expansive view of the horizon, unless I head up to the lake, so I can't really watch the storms roll in. (Yes, I'm aware that's a metaphorical cliche, but as anyone who has ever watched a thunderstorm come in off the far horizon will tell you, that's an apt metaphor.) I watched it lightning yesterday while driving over the top of a ridge where I could see clear to the next one, and that in itself was impressive. They're always shocking - if you'll pardon the pun - and also beautiful. I'm well aware of how dangerous they are, but then again so are tigers. It doesn't make them less beautiful.

My point in all this is that I suspect how we view something like a thunderstorm, which occurs all over the world, often depends a great deal more on the locality we're in. For a sailor it's a sign to head to shore, whether along the coast of Florida or out on the Great Lakes. (My home lake of Erie is especially noted for the ferocity of it's storms.) For someone in Oklahoma, it might be an indicator that they need to watch the skies, turn on the radio or television, and wonder if this time, the tornado will choose their little corner of the world.

For someone like me, it's just something to watch in awe from the comfort and shelter of the front deck, as the lightning lights up the trees and the thunder echoes around the surrounding hills.

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