Monday, August 15, 2005

Sky Power

God, what superb power filled the skies last night. There's nothing as marvelous, as spectacular, as thrilling as a Pennsylvania summer lightning storm.

Our house is situate on a knoll and set within a circle of mature trees--stretching elms, graceful sassafras and sturdy ashes in the main--and last night was the most beautiful lightning I've ever beheld in my entire life. Every crack and hole within the tree canopy, every gap between the black tree trunks filled instantly and often with gloriously blue electric that threatened with every thuderous boom to advance farther and come uninvited into the bedroom. And what angry roars...so earsplitting I felt the stucco walls shake as if in terror, and I imagined the cedar shingle roofing rise and curl before its blue power. Spice, our seventeen-year-old dog now currently having trouble with his back legs, and practically deaf, slept right through the wild symphony.

The last time I could recall such massive thunder and lightning was on the evening my parents had arrived to spend a fortnight's vacation with Larry and me. Mum is terrified of lightning, is heedless to the fact that fork lightning is a rare occurrence in any part of Ireland. I remember how paralyzed she used to get when we were children and there was an early evening storm replete with ferocious boomers that rolled across the sky as if God and the devil were locked in a game of bowls. As soon as the first pang of sheet lightning flashed across our eyes, she'd scream like a banshee and freeze like she were a hare caught in a car's headlights. Between the first and second boom rolls of thunder, she'd charge to a nearby closet, or the darkest room in the house, and would refuse to re-emerge until we came and told it the storm had passed, which we never did of course until we'd raided the cookie cupboard and gorged ourselves.

On her first night in Pennsylvania a fork lightning storm erupted right over the house. Bone-tired from her long flight, she'd already retired for the night and in between lightning flashes and the thunder, so violent I could hear the window panes shudder, I heard massive hysterical screams overhead. Next instant, furious footsteps came down the stairwell and mother crashed through the French doors leading to the living room in her bright pink nightie. Always proper and reserved in the presence of company, and especially in front of Larry whom she was just getting to know, Mother hadn't even bothered to bring her robe, so intense was her terror. Naturally, it was great fodder with which to pull her leg throughout the duration of the vacation, and she also saw the funny side.

And wouldn't you know it? On the day of their departure, Murphy's Law came into play and a violent thunder storm broke out in the afternoon which brought down a middling-sized tree on our driveway. By then though, Mother was utterly calm, almost oblivious; by then, she'd taken a second or third pill from her Valium stash because she's also terrified of flying.

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