Gentle Thunder

Thunder! Like a series of distant explosions, their immediate bursts of sound followed by hollow echoes and low groans. I imagine thunder as the menacing snarls and growls of angry clouds, threatening to rip the firmament to shreds. If the early morning sky were not so dark, I might see the dark grey clouds as an enormous face, its arched eyebrows, pinched nose, and slightly open mouth—with bared teeth—glaring at me, poised to strike.  The forecast calls for a bit of rain this morning, followed by a sunny afternoon with a high temperature of about 90°F. Daytime highs will drop as the week progresses, with a predicted high of only 70°F on Thursday.

Ah, there goes the thunder again, this time rolling on and on and on. Rain drops have begun to hit the window panes, signaling the arrival of a bit of a squall. I love to hear evidence of weather, even though I am indoors and cannot feel the rain nor the wind nor the slight drop in temperature as the wind picks up. Something inside me gets a boost of energy from the sound. A glossy magazine sitting on my desk reflects flashes of lightning. The power of those fierce bolts of raw electricity is awe-inspiring.  Weather is a beautiful pattern of inconsistency. Wet weather, dry weather, dark weather, light weather, windy weather, calm weather, hot weather, cold weather. Riveting opposites that insist on telling us stories of beautiful smiles and hideous scowls. I cannot adequately express how I am so completely enamored of the full spectrum of weather. Ach! A powerful flash of lightning and a loud crack of thunder at almost the same time! If I had been asleep, it would have jolted me awake.


In June 1982, British Airways Flight 009, a Boeing 747-200, experienced the failure of all four engines as its pilots unknowingly steered it into a cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Galunggung, roughly 110 miles southeast of Jakarta. I read about the incident (the plane landed safely in Jakarta after a harrowing, record-breaking glide toward the airport) as I was following links to read about the phenomenon call St. Elmo’s Fire, also called witchfire or witch’s fire. St. Elmo’s Fire is “a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a corona discharge from a rod-like object such as a mast, spire, chimney, or animal horn.” So says Wikipedia. It is a little embarrassing to rely on Wikipedia to quickly learn the basics of almost any topic because it feels a little like reading the CliffNotes summary of War and Peace instead of reading the actual book. By the way, the flight crew of British Airways Flight 009 saw the St. Elmo’s Fire effect on the windscreen; twice, if I remember correctly.


Suddenly, early this morning, my sleep was interrupted. Phaedra’s feet on my back jarred me awake. She ran down my leg and jumped off the bed onto the floor. I looked at the clock. It was 4:15. Pretty normal. She, too, is an early-riser. Although, that description may be misleading. She sleeps so much during the day, between burst of energy that propel her throughout the house like a ball slammed hard by a professional squash player, that she might better be described as a night-owl. Whatever she is called, she is consistent in her early morning insistence on being fed, even when her bowl has plenty of dry food. She prefers canned; filets or strips, and NOT paté. But, back to my point: she woke me from a relatively light sleep. I was about ready to get up, anyway.

Speaking of Phaedra, around 5:40 and she was yowling to be released from her temporary prison, the laundry/dining room (for her)/bedroom (for her). I had no intention of letting her out right then, because she would have run at full speed through the house, slamming against walls, swatting at her toys, leaping onto kitchen cabinets, and otherwise attempting to playfully terrorize the other occupants of the house who are not cats. I could hold out until her yowling stopped. I thought.


With a cup of coffee in me, I was adequately fueled for a while. My brain was functioning at 23%, a full 3% greater than normal. I once reached 27%, but that lasted only a few hours after I reached my twenty-seventh birthday. Since then, I slipped back down to an average of 20%, just enough to keep me docile and out of prison.  The higher my brain functioning goes, the more dangerous I become; anyone with even a fraction of a brain knows the only acceptable use for politicians is as fertilizer for heirloom tomatoes and acts accordingly. So it’s better for the politicians, at least, to keep my brain functioning in the lower range. Otherwise…prison, you know. No, not really. I don’t think I would do anything so brutal and horrible and so completely illegal, unless I had absolutely rock-solid assurances I would not be caught and prosecuted. Dammit, Phaedra! Her yowling was getting far too loud. She would wake mi novia if she kept it up. I could not have that. I needed my early morning solitude. But Phaedra already plundered that, with her incessant howls—noisy complaints suggesting I was a monster for keeping her in a four by ten foot room with nothing but food, water, a comfortable bed, and toys to keep her content. All right! I let her out. But I warned you, didn’t I, that her energy would transform the house into a feline squash court? The warning may not have been explicit, but I assumed it was sufficient to make the point without stating it; my implicit warnings may be a little too nuanced. I’ll work on that.


Even unrestrained by incarceration, Phaedra expresses herself with plaintive meows. She is free to wander the house, yet she complains that is not enough; she wants attention. Not the kind involving gentle petting; no, she wants to play games in which she pretends to want to be picked up but, instead, sprints away before I can accommodate what I thought was her desire for human contact. And, then, she swats at colorful little balls whose internal bells ring as they roll on the floor, with her in hot pursuit. Is this how it goes with me? All Phaedra, all the time? It’s like parents and grandparents who cannot talk about anything but their little darlings. And like pet owners who think others are as completely taken by their furry little companions as they are. Aaaarrrgghh! I could stand it! I will not become one of them! Enough about Phaedra! Let me turn my attention to something else; something more interesting and less saccharine.

I’m re-ordering the paragraphs I’ve written. Disregard any out-of-sequence comments, please.


Today is my SIL’s birthday. A significant milestone. One I will reach shortly, as well. And it’s the birthday of a high-school acquaintance, as well. And a friend from Dallas is celebrating her birthday, too. So is a friend from church. September 8 is a popular birth date, though probably not any more popular than any other dates. I just happen to have more birthday connections today than on the average day. Tomorrow would have been my late brother’s 75th birthday. In the coming weeks, mi novia and I will join other members of my family to scatter his ashes, long after his death early last year, in a place he loved. That sad gathering will represent the closest we have had to a family reunion in a very long time. As time slips from our fingers, we begin to realize it is possible that certain events may be the last one’s we will experience together. History has proven that to be true, of course. But only after feeling the lessons of history in one’s bones do those lessons become so thoroughly personal.


It’s a tad after 7. I could go on forever, but I won’t. Nothing I write is of any real consequence, not even to me. It is just a record of how my mind was working at a single moment in time. Everything we experience is temporary. Every single thing. Nothing lasts forever. Even the remnants of history—ancient ruins with broken columns and evidence of the art that pleased our ancestral gatherings—will disappear, in spite of our efforts to preserve them. Careers, jobs, physical or intellectual accomplishments. They all dissolve, some sooner than others. We put so much meaning into life, yet life leaves us; empty, used up, and ultimately forgotten.


Time for me to watch dim, grey light fill the sky and to listen to thunder speak to me. Another day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Gentle Thunder

  1. Meg, sounds reasonable!

  2. Meg Koziar says:

    Its a fact: There are more children born in September in the US than in other months. New Years’s Eve is the reason. (Credit Cloe for that last bit.) Good-to have rain.

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