Growing up in the Midwest, thunderstorms were an event.
In New York City, thunderstorms are merely an inconvenience. Cabs become scarce, and pedestrians run for cover. Everyone disappears indoors and beneath awnings. No one looks up to relish one of nature at its most beautifully chaotic.
In the Midwest, as Des Moines, Iowa, was reminded in April, thunderstorms wreak havoc, spawning tornadoes, hurricane force winds, and tennis ball sized hail. As a four-year-old in Waterloo, the Weather Channel’s severe storm warning was sufficient cause for my grandparent to grab a transistor radio, gather the family, and safe away to the basement. My young uncles did little to diminish my abject terror, rattling the beer can collection on the walls, and snapping the light switch on and off. But when the power went out in earnest, and KCRG reported funnel cloud sightings as close as Cedar Falls, they too fell quiet with fear. We sat in there huddled in the dark as the wind rattled the shutters, and the screen door slammed on the aluminum siding.
I made peace with the cumulonimbus as an five-year-old living in Oak Park, Illinois. My mother, sensing my anxiety as storm clouds approached, sat me on the front steps to watch the storm break. We counted the seconds between lightning and thunder. When there was no space between, and the thunder was boomed overhead and shook the house, and the rain fell in great, white sheets, she put her arm around my shoulder, and told me it was going to be all right.
I stepped into my apartment last night just as sun gave way to clouds. I poured a beer, and climbed the spiral staircase to my roof deck. The sky was the color of a two-day-old bruise, deep blue and purple streaked with yellow and brown. Thunder rumbled to the west, echoing through the canyons of the city. Lightning flashed above water towers and rooftops. And I counted the seconds between them, until there was no space between, only the storm, the sky, and me.
And everything was all right.