A wet time lapse of a lightning storm moving onshore from right to left
Be sure to protect your camera from the moisture if you try this...
Photograph by Tony Rath
“God’s rearranging furniture upstairs!” 1985
Story and drawing by Jayson Forman
Living now in San Francisco Bay Area has left me immune to the sounds and vibrations caused by earthquakes. That’s never a good thing….
Growing up on a tropical island with constant, and what felt like, random storms made me complacent and by the time hurricanes would approach, they kinda felt like nothing bigger than a squall/thunderstorm.
The rains would land sideways pelting our aluminum roofs like drums from a steel band. It got to the point that it became a soothing background sound that lulled me to sleep every time….
Except for the sounds of thunder!
I would jump up and make a beeline straight into my bed no matter where I was or what I was doing. The sounds of British harriers flying overhead triggered the same response.
My brother would come to my room to soothe my fears and tell me that it’s only “God rearranging furniture upstairs”. That may have worked for a few seasons but when I got older I remember saying
“Look! God doesn’t need furniture to begin with!
Why would he need to rearrange anything?
Oh and by the way, we ARE upstairs. There’s no more upstairs above us besides the roof!”
When occasional squalls would blanket the island, they were almost guaranteed to be accompanied by many lightning-storms. My mom would instinctively close our glass-paned windows and place a towel over the mirrors. I finally asked why and she said that mirrors attract lightning and she was afraid that it would shatter.
My little smart mouth couldn’t resist..
Mom, that’s an old wives’s tale!
What do you mean?
Well, you’re old.. and a wife… and that’s one hell of a …..
My words were interrupted by the loudest “nails on chalkboard” screeching sound I’ve ever heard and before we could register what that sound was, the silence was broken with the loud booms of explosions and what we’d imagine to be the sounds of a tree cracking.
My mom quipped
“You were saying?”
Then the house went dark…
then the street lights
and the entire neighborhood was deafeningly quiet.
There was no power anywhere.
I ran towards the door but didn’t make it too far as my mom caught the waistline of my pants just as I was about to reach the door handle..
“Young man, your curiosity will get you into trouble one of these days. You’re not headed out to see what that was and since when did you stop being afraid of thunder?”
“That wasn’t thunder, that was..”
and right on cue, the roaring bouts of thunder shook the house as I scurried to my room for impractical safety under the blankets.
That was the night when lightning struck one of our power line poles (they were tall wooden poles at the time). The transformers instantly exploded and there were reports of a few coconut trees showing signs of what looked like chainsaw slices through the trunks.
I’ve never actually experienced a hurricane. Just many tropical storms. We once evacuated the house and spent the night at my aunt Martha Leslie’s house as it was built on high stilts and not as close to the beach as we were.
I left the island shortly before Hurricane Mitch and the closest I’ve experienced was when Hurricane Gilbert cruised by at a distance of over 170 miles away, yet was still pushing waves powerful enough to make the Tackle Box Bar sway through the night. (That’s actually what an earthquake’s seismic waves feels like come to think of it)….
As for the “old wives’ tale”.
Turns out that there is a good reason for covering mirrors. The vibrations produced by thunderstorms are sometimes powerful enough to break the mirrors so covering it with a cloth dampens the effects as well as prevents most of the shards of glass from becoming projectiles.
Moms really do know best, always.
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