Thunder crowds my head. Some are struck by the bright stare of lightning, but I am simply thunderstruck. By stolen thunder, sun and thunder, thunderous prose, thunder thighs, thunder road, imaginary bolts of thunder, thunderclaps, and the screen door that slams when kids hear the first crack.
I grew up in the 1960’s in the Gulf South where thunder was a big part of life. Lightning, too. Thunder stayed with me, though—a lifelong reverberation.
Back in childhood, thunderstorms wrapped around me, the air like a fine cotton blouse, brushing up, arriving each afternoon for the usual visit. Breezes came through our dusty screened windows and filled the rooms with dampness. Loose envelopes might flutter down from my grandmother’s writing desk and the house become dim. I remember the approaching darkness and the wind, at first subtle, turning over leaves and then recklessly tearing them. The orange and grapefruit trees littered the driveway with twigs, dark green foliage, and odd-sized citrus. And then in the distance, the first rumble. I always loved that first echo, far off, promising to come nearer.
Now I live in the Ohio River Valley where thunderstorms are less frequent. There is a room in this house that is windowed on three sides and surrounded by trees. Not the citrus trees of my youth, but great oaks, white pines, and a tulip tree, which in spring hosts cedar waxwings and in summer ill-kempt raccoons. The view from this room is green and lush for about half of the year, and this is the time when I wait for thunder.
The recent weeks have been rainless. Clear, cerulean September skies and a late August that felt like early autumn. The days became warmer and the sweeping blue veiled itself in white, at first thin, barely there, and gradually spun with silken clouds.
But this morning there is no colored cast to the sky at all. Instead, there’s a damp gray blanket hanging overhead and the world smells like rain. Pure, cool, impending rain. And it’s quiet. Almost too quiet. I look out at the yellowing leaves of the tulip tree and wish for thunder.