Night Thunder

Back when I was a youngun’ our house in the country just south of Abingdon, VA burned. While reconstruction was taking place my father bought a mobile home for us to live in on the property. Comfy enough, except when land and sky would brew up a lightning storm.

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My mother was unnerved by such fierce storms and would make her way into the middle of the tin house, believing that was the safer option. I, on the other hand, made my way to the picture window to enjoy the spectacular display as best I could. I had no fear, just wonder.

Fifty years later the wonder endures. I am still spellbound by the power and majesty of the weather in its angrier form. Especially at night.

We now live in the South Holston Lake area of upper east Tennessee. The lake is encompassed by the hills and mountains that make up the Iron Mountain range. Most often when we get a storm it climbs Holston Mountain in the east and makes its way west.

The storms can be particularly fierce given the geography of the area and more often than not, the distant rumble of thunder becomes an overhead light show.

I am especially drawn to the night storms. The day’s heat builds and combines with evaporated lake water and the moisture blown up from the Gulf of Mexico and unleashes its fury overhead. Sometimes I will take a front-row seat on the deck to enjoy the show, at least until rain starts blowing on me. I draw the line at sogginess.

Unless the storm appears spontaneously over the house, the tempest is always announced from a distance. The folds of the mountains form a perfect echo chamber through which the thunder reverberates. It is seldom a clap and done, but a clap followed by a smaller clap and then by several more.

Two nights ago we were tossed into the midst of a bodacious thunderstorm. I was laying awake in bed, as I often do, and was startled, to say the least, by a clap of thunder in the neighborhood. No distant rumble approaching slowly and predictably, but a sudden ka-boom!

The intensity of the storm grew and soon the power flickered and finally gave one last gasp before leaving the area. I suspect a local transformer was hit by lightning. Without electricity the night becomes even more still. You don’t really pay much attention to it but there is always some noise associated with electricity.

In our case we have the quiet hum of the refrigerator, the intermittent starting and stopping of the heat pump and the dusk-to-dawn buzzing of the sodium vapor light on our property. I have become accustomed to this racket and generally I don’t notice it, until it’s gone anyway.

When it goes a hidden world opens up. We have a small wet-weather creek in the hollow beside our house and the tiny summer peepers love this area. As dusk settles they start their concert but generally you can’t hear the nuances in their voices because of the ever-present electric noise. During the power outage the extraneous electric din is subtracted and the peepers have the stage to themselves.

I am sitting in complete darkness with nothing but the sound of little peepers, gigantic thunder claps and the drumming of rain on my tin roof. Auditory wonder is the only way I can describe it. That evening it lasted a couple of peaceful hours. After a while the storm dissipated, the rain stopped and the transformer was repaired. Everything back to normal.

But not really.


© 2017, Bruce Denton. All rights reserved.

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3 Responses to Night Thunder

  1. Amy says:

    Such beautiful writing.

  2. tdd says:

    Love this!

  3. Unmuddle says:

    Maybe we can coin a new Proverb: “Wonder is the gateway to God.” You excel in sensitivity to God’s creation and appropriately regard it as “awesome” (a word now destroyed, unfortunately, by overuse and trivialization).

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