15 June 2011

Early Summer Storms

Late at night and during the early summer months out here in the Midwest (out here, but from where?), roiling thunderstorms draw us from our sleep, and we shudder in our beds in astonishment and dread.  At first, vague rumblings move into our dreams, as of the sound of the drum tuning at the rear of the concert stage. The soft din is low and irregular, almost calming, but even in our dreams we anticipate the violent assault we have learned from experience that the muted rolls portend. Though the storm remains yet many miles away, we can hear the insistent thunder progressively sound like the irregular beat of an orchestra comprised of deep tympani drums tuned to diminished fifths: the storm’s threatening alert, this symphony of percussion, beats primeval into even the most intimate body recesses. We know what yet portends, and lie tremblingly awake in our beds, hopelessly hoping the storm will keep its distance. In this first movement of the storm, we can see in the near distance the lightning flicker, as a bulb flashing down, though we cannot yet hear its sharp, cracking sound. Inevitably, we know that as the storm moves closer, razor-sharp bolts will slice cleanly through the skies callously aiming for our rooftops. We slip further under the light cotton blanket and hope hopelessly to fall back to sleep. Like a cry in the night, the storm calls us awake.
As the storm approaches nearer, the thunder increases in shattering, shuddering decibels, and reaches through the house walls, shaking us who already quake in our beds. Lightning cracks the sky with the sound of new wood torn and splintered. We lie in our beds certain that one of the thunderclaps will rip in two our feeble solitary home atop the hill and expose us naked to the brutal physical assault of the violent storm. Our beds feel no longer a safe refuge, and we rise from them and stand wide-eyed at the window as if as witnesses we could tame the assault. The dark shapes of standing tall trees whipped by the violent winds snap back and forth, and I expect to see one of them go flying, uprooted and groundless past our window, like Miss Gulch pedaling steadily on her bicycle in the midst of the twister. Thunder starts to roll incessantly and fills the air like the sound of a thousand tympani drums, and the lightning, in strobe-like bursts, flashes in split-second intervals. The lashing rain beats on the ground and on our roof and our windows in unsteady but persistent rhythms demands attention and even entrance. Its rhythmic drumming is in counterpoint to the thunder and lightning, and altogether it makes an unholy sound out of which we expect monsters to rise. I think of Mussorgsky’s “A Night on Bald Mountain,” but it is late June and not All Hallow’s Eve, and this isn’t recorded music but real Nature threatening. Wrapped in the storm we have become the storm. Home is not where we want to be, but it is where we are; home does not feel safe, and yet it is all the safety we have.


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