Behold the Power of the Storm

Stefanie - Lake Forest, Illinois
Entered on September 12, 2005

Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: courage, nature, place
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I believe that most people fall into one of two categories: those that run into their basements at the first signs of a thunderstorm and those that run outside to behold them. I am of the latter group, which excitedly tracks the storms as they approach our towns on the live Weather Channel map.

As far back as I can remember, my parents chuckled when their friends would call them up to warn them about the impending doom of a thunderstorm. They were setting up camp in the basement with some food, water, a portable radio and their dogs. Shouldn’t we, too? Of course not! We set up camp in the chairs sitting on the front porch, subject to the wind, rain and leaves that the storm would churn up.

Ironically, I feel at peace when I recall the storms on summer nights that so energized and rejuvenated the earth and my life. After a sweltering day of pounding tennis balls or goofing around at the beach, putting on a comfy sweatshirt and curling up in a cushioned chair, staring into the harsh darkness, punctuated by surreal flashes of light, became a calm, reflective tradition. The aroma of newly watered vegetation and soil would seep in through my nose and fill up my lungs more satisfyingly than any other normal breath in my life ever has.

Watching thunderstorms actually started as a way to ease my fears of the petrifying sounds and light. My brother explained to me the method of calculating how far away lightning would strike. Thunder-crash! That was our cue to begin counting. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one– Crrrrack! Flash! And the lightning was a safe three-and-a-half miles away. I worked my way from inside a bedroom with a small window, to the living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, all the way outside onto the porch. At each graduation into a less-enclosed place I felt bolder about facing the next storm.

I believe in always watching the thunderstorm, always putting myself where there is great opportunity in spite of the terrifying risk. I believe in always watching the thunderstorm because the world that is illuminated during a bolt of lightning is somehow more magical than the one that exists in the cloudless sunlight at high noon. Perhaps it is the illusion of seeing at once deep blackness and a fully lit world; perhaps it is because in the night I tend to forget what a day lit world looks like.

From my storm-watching I learned that the darkness and doubt that may overwhelm a situation need not be bad. The exclamation marks of excitement and enlightenment that occur only every so often provide energy enough to continue the trudge through the boredom and predictability of quotidian life. The terrors of failing at something big are overshadowed when I consider the bolt of lightning that might set my life ablaze.