Thunderstorms are as much a part of a Southern summer as a slice of garden tomato on white bread and Duke’s mayonnaise. They are the sound of the hot summers of my childhood and call to mind running to the truck from the creek to escape the lightening, trying and failing to dodge fresh cow patties along the way. A friend didn’t believe me earlier in the summer when I said we would step in them as kids and feel the squish between our toes. He is a city boy and was mortified, which made the story all the more delicious.
I love the way thunderstorms sound and the way they roll over our mountains. We can see the rain veiling the peaks across the valley long before it arrives to blanket our own square of earth. We wait with anticipation to hear the rain on the roof and invariably feel disappointed when it skirts around us, dousing the neighbors while leaving us parched.
The lightening cracks then whizzes unseen overhead. An occasional bolt will flash close enough to catch the corner of our sight and send a rush of glee mixed with terror through our hairs. The thunder rumbles, reverberating deep in the soul.
There is something about thunderstorms that feels primal and inherited, like a birthright for a Southerner. Our stories are filled with summer storms that come up in a flash to shake the world and our lives. They punctuate arguments, start love affairs, stop them before their first kiss, and also end long-standing quarrels.
A storm rolling across the valley can shoo you into the house while relieving the conscience of any guilt for coming indoors to escape the heat. They are a ready excuse for an early bedtime or a couple of hours in front of the television.
But perhaps most fundamental is how they seem to stop everything – to calm the chaos, as if the tempest inside leaves the heart to manifest outside and be released and purged.