it started slow. pit. pat. while we all licked our forks out on the porch with the screens. then, pitpitpit. patpatpat. skies opened, all right, without so much as a telltale creak of the trapdoor. heavens flashed off and on, like angels were making a fuss with their flashlights. checking batteries. sending signals. playing flashlight tag, maybe.
nobody minded. the splash from the rain hitting the leaves in the garden just made for a mist. a midsummer‘s shower, while dining on just-plucked corn and sausages burned on the grill. what’s to mind?
we sat there till finally the drumbeat of rain on the roof slowed to a murmur. then we stacked all the plates and we dashed. last one inside is a dripping wet dishrag.
i lost, but only because i was balancing saucers and stopped to notice some lovely something there in the garden.
just as i slid closed the screen, it started up again. mighty fierce. crashing and banging. and lights flashing so steadily up in the clouds, i started to think maybe there’d been a run on double DD batteries. maybe every angel on high, and even a devil or two, was having at it with lightbeams.
always one to heighten the drama whenever, wherever, it comes, i turned out the lights. every last one. oh, there was protest of course, but i didn’t care. this was a lightshow on high, and i wasn’t missing one blessed kilowatt. oh, no.
and that’s when my big brother, one who’s not around these parts very much, well, he started to teach. he was, in the simplest terms, explaining the lightning, something i’d never quite stopped to try to figure out, ’cept that i knew it scared me, and made me run with my face all scrunched-up and my back arched as i dashed through the pounding-down rain and the puddles, certain at any step i’d get cracked on the backside and make like a lighted-up x-ray.
but back to my brother and his lecture on lightning:
“it’s the same as when you rub your feet on the carpet, then touch the top of your head or a doorknob, and, kabam, there’s a spark. static electricity, that’s all it is. as the cold air rubs against the warm air, there’s friction, then, kapow, lightning.”
that’s pretty much, word for word, how my big brother explained it. he went on and on. talked about how there’s three kinds of lightning: cloud to ground, cloud to cloud, and stuck inside a cloud. talked about positive and negative charges. talked about stability and instability, only he was referring to air.
tried to make me see how easy this was: warm air, down low, wants to float up. bangs into the cold stuff way up high, now on its way down, sinking.
laid out a simple equation. warm + cold = friction. when there’s enough of a buildup, when one side is more charged than the other, the electricity has to go somewhere, he tells me. that’s lightning, he says.
oh, i think, i get it, realizing i will now forever picture cold air in slippers, scuffing against warm air, the rug. when the lightning cracks i will forever picture a big doorknob in the sky, and the clouds yelping, ouch, when they get shocked by the frictional sparks.
“nature is always trying to strike a balance,” my brother goes on. water sloshing in a bowl levels out. a windy day, he tells me, is no more than air from a high-pressure pocket swooping into a low-pressure pocket with plenty of room. a melting ice cube in a tumbler of H2O is simply the frozen water chunk surrendering its chill to the room-temperature tap water it’s swimming in, trying to make all things equal, or at least in the same general temperature neighborhood.
he knows this stuff, inside and out, my big brother does.
he specializes in all things off the ground. he has been, since he was old enough to say, “pairpane,” obsessed with all things aeronautic.
he has flown itty-bitty planes onto itty-bitty spits of land in alaska, turned loopdy-loops over the sides of a mountain in montana, and now teaches folks how to fly super-duper jets out in long beach, california.
and while i don’t care much–never have, never will–for bombers, and my heart doesn’t thump even for bi-winged wonders, i did suddenly find myself enthralled by my sky-seeking brother’s knowledge of weather.
actually, mesmerized would be more accurate a term.
i could have listened for hours. i felt myself being swallowed whole by the topic of ebbs and flows and collisions of air. it’s all about cold and warm, and wet and dry, and up and down, and the simple exchange of ions.
the world, when you stop to pay attention to it, is really rather basic. we can, if we try to, understand vast chapters that seem, well, lightyears beyond our reach.
i think deep down i am a science geek. but the more i know about science, the more it makes me a geek of the God kind. i grow speechless, feel infinitesimally small, when i start to consider the fingers of God–or whatever name you put to the force behind the wind and the tide and the spinning of ol’ mama earth.
i marvel so at the great Brilliance that thought to make the tongue of the butterfly just long enough to reach deep into the throat of the trumpet vine. and what of the seasons that give each and every living thing–even those of us who merely stare out the window–a season to curl up and hibernate, after the long, hot summer?
how heavenly the sense that all the bursting of lights the other night was simply air banging into air of the opposite kind, and exploding in celestial hallelujah. and what about the simple falling of the rain that brings with it not only earth-quenching waters but essential nitrogen to make the roots of my new baby plants grow deep?
no wonder some of us sit with our nose pressed to the rain-splattered panes of glass. there is wonder crashing and booming just beyond the sill.
i, for one, don’t want to miss it. especially now that my big brother made it all make such pure and simple, heaven’s sense.
by any chance did you catch the light show the other night? according to the weather people, who track these things, we here in chicagoland got as many lightning strikes in a few short hours as we usually get in a whole half of the year. oh, goodness. good thing i turned out the lights to take in every last crack and flash. i wonder, do you ever stop to consider the weather? either as wholly explainable science, or truly inexplicable marvel?
just happens today is the day of my true love’s original birth. he rarely happens by here, but in case he does, bless you for being my truly inexplicable marvel. you couldn’t have asked for a simpler birthday formula–blueberries and rice chex for breakfast, burgers on the grill for dinner. it’s one of the pure things we love about you. that, and a few hundred others. xoxox
two days from now my baby boy turns 7. could it really be? seems every other day at the launch of this eighth month is the birthday of someone i much love. happy blessed birthdays to the whole parade of you…