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  • Writer's picturergummere

The Storm. Then the Calm.

I love a good thunderstorm. I usually go outside and watch it come in, like I did yesterday here in Boone. Thunderstorms in the South come with a lot of fanfare — big, noisy thunder rolls and bright, hot flashes of lightning, usually followed by raindrops the size of bullets.

The last really big thunderstorm I took myself out to see was in the summer of 2016, right around the time I'd answered the call to my Chasing Light journey. All afternoon there had been rumblings of thunder, you know the kind that nudge you and get you all wound up. Then came the NWS warning of severe weather.

The sky turned the color of cinder, and the trees lit up iridescent green, and a gusty wind blew across the ridge tops and down through the holler, and I, as my dear departed sister Debbie used to say, lacking "the brains God promised a goat," went out onto my front porch to watch.

The storm seemed to be heading from over Tennessee way, from the other side of the mountain behind my little bungalow, and I leaned out over the porch railing and breathed deep of the rapidly cooling air.

"Well, c'mon!" I shouted! "C'mon!" and then after an enormous roll of thunder I yelled, "Is that all you got?!" I wanted lightning that painted the back of my skull. I wanted thunder that shook my innards. I wanted buckets of rain in my face. I wanted it wild.

Then came a terrible roar, and the storm rose up over the mountain like a ferocious beast and hurled itself down the incline toward my little house. I watched the tops of the hardwoods that marched down the mountainside being torn and slashed, and the four small locusts along the fence beside my house, the ones that bloomed honey-sweet every summer and glowed cream-colored in the moonlight, began shaking, then thrashing, then they bent clean over and laid on the ground.

I yelled, "Oh, shiiittt," and ran inside with the dogs, the wind outside like a goddamn freight train. I got under my heavy round oak trestle table and gathered the dogs to me, and held onto them while the wind steamrolled over my metal roof. I was sure pieces of it would start coming off at any moment, and with my eyes squeezed tight, kept whispering, "Omagawd, omagawd," wondering when the lid would come off and we'd be lifted up and tossed into a far-off ditch. The storm's fury seemed to last forever.

Then it roared away over the next ridge top and was gone. I let go of the dogs, although they continued to stay close, looking at me with anxious brown eyes.

Outside, the grass shimmered and glowed. The temperature had dropped at least ten degrees and water glistened from each leathery rhododendron leaf. Three of the four little locust trees had been torn in half, snapped off like toothpicks. Across the way, along my neighbors' ridge top, sharp points pierced the afternoon sky where pines and hardwoods had stood just minutes earlier. We'd just been visited by a straight-line wind with wind speeds of around 90 miles per hour. I walked around the house, expecting to see pieces of my roof peeled back or lying in the yard, but miraculously all was intact.

And because I have apparently learned exactly nothing, when I got the alert yesterday afternoon of a severe thunderstorm warning, of course I had to go outside and watch it blow in. Thunder rolled all around, and the rising wind kept switching directions. "C'mon," I whispered. "Bring it."

Beasley, who had just returned from piddling on a patch of grass, looked at me with deep mistrust and not a small degree of annoyance. When it started sprinkling, I put him inside. He trotted in with his tail between his legs and a distinct attitude of, "My mom doesn't really love me."

To be fair, I was halfway through an excellent hazy IPA, so my fixation on the wind-whipped leaves — the white oaks and maples, the mountain magnolias and beech — was a bit enhanced by high-gravity spirits in a high intensity moment, and having lived in the New Mexico High Desert for the past two-plus years, I was transfixed by all the trees — all those trees! — and all the leaves — my God, all the leaves! It was positively dizzying.

I sat outside a while longer, watching, waiting. The slate-colored sky spit rain for about ten minutes, but the big storm bypassed us altogether. The clouds swirled and tossed for a while and then gave up. I finished my hazy IPA and joined Beasley inside.

I had great respect for New Mexico thunderstorms, when they came, generally during summer monsoon season. Lots of wide open spaces, lightning everywhere, wild wind. I minded my own business. Afterward came some of the most beautiful rainbows I've ever seen.

This rare December stunner was taken from my back yard in the Nob Hill area of Albuquerque on Christmas Eve morning.

This one I grabbed from a video I shot from friends' front porch near Sandia Park in June.

Of course, rainbows happen everywhere. Below is one I saw from the deck of the condo I'd rented at Kure Beach in North Carolina in 2014, the year my mother died. This rainbow showed up as I arrived wondering how I'd ever find the strength to write about her, about our complicated relationship and the deep love we managed to forge.

And here, just yesterday, after the storm had moved through the area, my daughter Maggie captured this gorgeous image of the view from their house that sits on a sweet mountainside just outside of Boone.

Even though rainbows are the result of an easily explained meteorological phenomenon that has to do with light wavelengths and raindrops refracting and splitting the spectrum, I will always think they are magical. Seeing one in the sky takes my breath away. I always say, "Oh, wow!" and if there is someone around to run and tell, I do.

"C'mon," I say. "You've got to see this rainbow that just appeared!" First the storm, then, with enough light, pure sky-washed wonder.

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