Lightning strikes again and again and again. In my life, anyway. In the midst of a three-day run of thunderstorms, I can’t help think of the close calls. The house where I grew up was set on a pocket of cornfield next to my grandparents’ small farm. Connecticut River Valley rich soil, gentle rolling landscape, it was beautiful. It was apparently also some ind of geo-hot spot. I’ve got no scientific backup, just the facts. In my relatively short time living there, I left when I was 18, here’s a rundown of strikes that I remember:
Dog — typically my father kept a dog outside, with a doghouse, on a long chain. Dogs running loose were potential chicken-chasers or worse, chicken-killers. In one thunderstorm, lightning struck the metal pole securing the chain, traveled the links and killed the dog.
Grandparents — lighting struck their house next door to us, followed the antenna wires (pre-cable) and exploded the TV set in a burst of flames
House — lightning strike to the roof blew shingles and burned a patch.
Brother — lighting hit a wrench he was holding as he stood in the open door of the garage. He survived with a minor burn
As a kid, I saw these as interesting occurrences but they didn’t change the fact that I loved to run barefoot through thunderstorms, cooling off as the cooling downpour soaked my cotton shirt and shorts. Then you grow up. You learn about lightning. You see trees cleaved in two and worry that you might be driving on a road when one explodes in front of you.
Then you, if you is me, read Alice Hoffman’s brilliant story of life ripped about by forces of nature. In the surreal The Ice Queen, Hoffman paints word pictures of fireballs of electricity spinning through a house, bodies forever tattooed by burns. Yes, it’s fiction, but she dances that fine line that makes you a believer.
And then just a couple of years ago, feeling smug because I now live nestled in a small wooded hollow, not an open cornfield, I was enjoying a summer storm as I sat on our screened porch. I’ve decided that any lightning worth it’s salt — or electrons — would hit one of the tall trees first, not our house. Thunder rumbled, rain fell. It was the perfect summer storm until the strike.
A spear of white light shot to the ground, slicing between trees. I saw it before I reacted. Saw the white, saw the tip touch the ground ten feet from where I sat. Saw my own fear as every hair on my arms stood and a soft buzz of electricity ran through me. By the time I bolted from my chair toward the French doors and safety of the house, it was too late. I’d been found.
A friend who is a lifelong Boy Scout, had a poster on his office door with lightning information … if there is 30 seconds between the rumble and the flash, take cover in a building. I am forever prepared now
all best wishes,