Lightening On The River!


Thunder on the River is always scary and exciting. Lightening is nothing to mess around with. I have been hit once (indirectly of course, very few people survive direct hits) and have been close enough to four other strikes that I could hear, feel, and smell the electricity in the air a split second before the strike happened. This may sound like too much lightening for one life time, but for the amount of time that I spend outside during thunderstorm season, five close calls in thirty years isn’t really that crazy. So there we were rafting down through the Hudson River Gorge, when a thunderstorm blew through. This happens several times every summer. Most of the time all that happens is we hear the thunder rumble through the mountains but never actually see the lightening because the storm cloud is behind a ridge. This storm started just like that. Distant grumbling from hidden clouds, with stray rain drops in the breeze. This storm grumbled out of sight all the way through the gorge, then seemed to move on as we paddled out of the steep part and into the three mile float out section. It was overcast and cool so we kept paddling to stay warm. We were about a mile from the take out when the grumbling started again, louder and more persistent. Our paddling efforts doubled in a race for the take out. Then the lightening became visible, general flashing lights high up in the dark clouds with responding loud thunder . We all just wanted to get off the river quickly. All the rafts from all the companies were bunched up along the river bank together fiercely trying to get to the take out. Nothing like a little adrenaline to motivate strong paddling. No one wanted to pull over to wait it out for concern of losing the dam release water and for hypothermia setting in among chilled wet guests who are already cold. So as pink lightening forked across the dark brooding cloudy sky behind us and angry thunder chased us downstream, we paddled for all we had! I kept my guests attention focused forward toward our destination so they never saw the scary lightening dance performance behind us, but I saw every streaking bolt, felt the energizing rush of adrenaline, and shouted encouragement over every cracking peal of thunder. My internal consolation (however untrue it may be) is that when you are at the bottom of a gorge, you are Not the highest object around. The lightening tends to hit the ridges and the tallest trees. As we all pulled into the take out at mostly the same time the sky opened up and dumped all its rain out in a blinding torrent completely soaking everybody in a matter of seconds and turning the path to the river into a rushing muddy creek. Streaking lightening and deafening thunder were happening simultaneously as all the guests ran en mass through the trees for the shelter of the waiting buses, and dripping guides started carrying and loading rafts onto flatbed trailers. Fifteen minutes later as the steamy buses pulled out onto the road to carry everybody back to their raft bases, the rain stopped as abruptly as it started, the sun shone brightly like a clear summer day, and the thunder and lightening were nothing but a memory. Five miles down the road at our raft base, the sun was shining merrily, nothing was wet, and they hadn’t even heard the thunder! The energy from the storm has ebbed, but I am still humming inside.


Driving Into The Storm


I drove down the mountain this evening to see a friend. We hung out for a couple of hours knitting and talking while her youngest child tried very hard not to go to bed: “I need to use the bathroom, I need a glass of water, I need to tell you something, I need to say goodnight to the gold fish, I’m too hot and itchy to sleep” She got increasingly creative. The humidity had increased to uncomfortable as a storm was brewing. We had three wonderful warm sunny days to build energy that promised to make a wicked thunder storm. As I got ready to leave, thunder was rumbling in the distance and lightening flickering behind the trees, noise and light coming from the direction I would soon be traveling. The storm was over the mountains and quickly headed this way.

As my car finally attained the main road, the wind kicked up buffeting my vehicle, and spewing new green leaves, flower petals, and litter across my path. The first tiny preliminary rain drops fell, spattering on the pollen coated windshield. Lightening arched across the night sky, illuminating the landscape with strobing electric blue light, the mountain (my home) a dark silhouette on the horizon. The pursuing darkness was blinding. Another couple of miles down the road and the sky opened up dropping a deluge, slowing my progress, wind pushing the car around, so that I had to hold tightly to the wheel. Lightening everywhere so that the darkness was almost effervescent. The bolts streaked across the whole sky, too numerous to count, blanketing blue, purple, white, and pink through the roiling clouds. Searing thick pulsing electric bolts hit the earth, revealing black mountain tops solid against the shimmering boiling strobing purple night sky.

I actually got a little nervous at the ferocity of the chaos erupting around me because I knew that kitties at home don’t like thunderstorms and I wasn’t there to comfort them. I however, love the thrill of experiencing thunderstorms: seeing lightening dance in the sky and the pink sparks and flames shower upward where it hits the earth, hearing and feeling the tremendous thunder shock rattle through the house, smelling ozone in the air from all the electricity, the tingling sensation of electric air, the humming sound rocks make right before lightening strikes, the sudden chill of gusting wind before the hail starts, the immense power and surging energy unleashed, sudden, random, and violent. Then when the storm passes, the perfect peace and tranquil quiet that follows after mother nature has blown off all her steam.

This storm passes quickly, as most thunderstorms do in the mountains. Ten miles down the road, headed up, I drive out the other side. Rain fitfully sputtering, steam rising off the the wet pavement, giant frogs all over the road soaking up the heat. I try not to run over them. Back at home, the rain has washed the pollen away, refilled the rain bucket, cooled of the oppressive humidity, and given all the plants a drink. As I step out of the car, the stars are visible through the last high wispy trailing clouds. Inside, the cats greet me lovingly, and we all climb into bed.