Nice sunny day for a birthday party, we all thought, especially one for the esteemed Artist Previously And Still Known As Donna. She’s hosted some spectacular events before, right in the parking lot of her art gallery, complete with live bands of varied and interesting sorts. And the guests tend to be on the varied and interesting side also, on account of being arty themselves, or from having had artness smeared upon them from an early age.
Dave and I have our own artistic tendencies, or at least we’re on the spectrum, but we get the invite on account of being neighbors. Especially, neighbors who grow basil.
And so we made the big commute a half-block down the alley toward the sound of the band, and I glanced up and pointed at the eastern sky.
“Looks like rain,” Dave noted. To which I added: Hell. Looks like a thunderstorm.
Nobody here ever believes me when I say that, especially when all the competing weather apps agree it’s going to be sunny all day long, and especially when we hardly ever get thunderstorms, but they can gaze at their little screens all they want: I’m looking at the sky. And although there is no thunderhead visible, the sky looks purple, and it looks steep. That’s the only way I can say it: it looks steep. It’s got plans.
Don’t mess with a girl from northern Virginia.
We know our thunderstorms. Most of the summer it is stinky hot and stinky humid and then, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the sky looks purple and steep, and the wind kicks up, and it rains buckets, and it’s loud as hell, and it is the most refreshing thing ever, lightning: summers in northern Virginia will make a non-believer out of you. If it ups your chances of getting a thunderbolt slapped at you.
Down further south, I hear tell the kids chew on river banks for their minerals, but we were a little more upscale in Arlington, and we got what we needed by pressing our tongues on the screen door during the thunderstorm. You can taste the tang of it. Vitamin Hallelujah.
This is a town where, if you can summon the energy to peel yourself off the linoleum, you can pass an afternoon popping tar bubbles on the pavement. You can lose your thighs on a lawn chair. You can beg to be sent to the basement with the spiders.
Then the thunderstorm comes, and goes, and everything is fresh and wonderful for a moment, and then all the rain re-evaporates and pushes the humidity just past holy-shit percent. That air could support guppies, and you’d be advised to pack a snorkel for a walk around the block.
Donna’s party was swell. There were tent canopies set up for the shade. Then that steep purple sky leaned in, and suddenly everything not nailed down was westward bound. Everyone grabbed a tent pole and grinned. We don’t get that here much. Thunder. Lightning. Sweet beautiful summer water pouring right out of the sky, gobs of it, even sweeter for having eluded all prediction. We went home to watch the soak from our tower but we could hear the cheers from the parking lot at every boom. Donna’s guests were just fine. I imagine they were tent-pole-dancing. That’s what lightning will do to you, especially if you’re already arty.
Happy birthday, Donna, and thank you. Give Zeus my regards.
I've heard that the reason that different weather apps and websites come up with different results is that they each use different algorithms to predict the weather. Sometimes they miss things altogether or they say that we are having rain when it is only a bit cloudy. In other words, not only can't they predict the future; they don't even have a firm grasp on the present.
I prefer going directly to the doppler and predicting it myself. If the green blob is headed this way, it's going to rain. Sometimes I can plainly see that it will skirt past us, when the weather guys are saying storms are a'comin'. I'm usually more accurate than they are.
My favorite app is the one that says things like "rain starting in nineteen minutes." I like the audacity.
Pole dancing in the rain-sounds like fun. I know what you mean by purple and steep clouds, I've seen that here in Australia once or twice in my lifetime.
I always imagine the sun always shines on Australia. The whole continent. All the time. Also, there are kangaroos.
You'll be happy to know that nothing much has changed in NoVa. I live in Arlington now, having also lived in Alexandria ( a dozen other place over the years). Tho Summers seem to be even more humid and sticky and swampy than they used to – or maybe that's just my perception. The view from my third floor windows faces west and I never tire of it. They have predicted ugly weather for the last few days and been wrong, I've had the windows open most of the days – You know what I have always loved most about Summer thunderstorms? The way the world smells afterwards…of earth and plants and moisture –
Someone in the last few years, I think, coined a word for that smell: petrichor.
They may be arty, but you know when there's going to be a thunderstorm. That's just tapping into the divine in different ways.
It's more like tapping into Washington, D.C. in the summertime. Just this side of divine. But God do I love thunderstorms.
I realize I'm the old geezer shaking his cane from the rocking chair, but thunderstorms west of the cascades used to be rare as hen's teeth. Seattle too now get's t-storms regularly.
I can't say they're all that common yet but I will note that the hugest thunderstorm I ever witnessed was right here. It was like they'd saved up for years and put it all out there at once. Doug firs bending to the earth and back again. Unbelievable.
When I lived in Washington briefly in the late 70s, thunderstorms were so rare that when one popped up, everyone in my sister's elementary school (including the teachers) went under their desks. We were from NJ, so my sister knew these people were just insane. It's just thunder. The real thing to worry about is the LIGHTNING! And we laugh at lightning in our family. Heck, I was struck by lightning in 1983. Didn't leave a mark externally, though when I was MRIed by a neurologist in 2014, she could tell I'd had "electrical trauma." Just means my brains are nicely tanned, I suppose.
Lordy! "electrical trauma" – whoa
So I guess, basically, you had all-natural wild-crafted electro-shock therapy….
mimimanderly, yeah if electro-shock therapy leaves you with constant twitches for five years…
I can't tell you how happy this little fact about you makes me! But wait: you mean Washington state, I hope?
I almost forgot what I was going to say after reading Bruce's comment.
Then I remembered. Were those tent pegs made of metal??
We are well acquainted with "tunder 'n lightning b'god" around here. Most of July is hot and humid, and every year somebody gets electricated. Usually a damn fool golfer. Sometimes they survive, sometimes they don't.
You do remember Lee Trevino, right? He'd been struck by lightning more than once on the golf course, so some reporter asked him what he does when he hears thunder. He said he holds up a one-iron. Because "Even God can't hit a one-iron."
ha ha ha!
In my string of non sequitur, "tunder 'n lightning' was the term used for the Swedish boxer on the early 60's…ingemar Johansoon.
Are there any Norwegian boxers?
Only one that comes to mine. Johansoon got battered around the ring by a young Ali, who could move like no one you've ever seen well over 200 lbs. Johansoon, to his credit, retired, and never talked about to my knowledge.
In weather forecasting the first rule should be to look upup. The app between your thumbs has its place, but your senses should win out. Are all your neighbors cute and talented?
Every last one of them except one.
When I was a teen in Buffalo, my bff and would meet in the storms and revel in the soaking. I remember the feel and the smell of it. Even today I don’t mind getting “caught” in the rain. I now live on a rural hill and lightning is a more serious issue but I have a porch made for viewing.
I remember dancing in the rain in my little mini-dress in about 1969. It was fun but I think I also knew I looked good. If I'd been MY mommy, I wouldn't have let me out of the house.
Air that could support guppies. You described my childhood in Louisiana. Don’t miss it a bit.
I'd still like to visit Louisiana. Maybe a different time of year?
Sister Donna moved to the west coast from St Louis by wagon train for two reasons. One to get as for away from mom as she could get and two, she hated tornadoes. I think she secretly despised thunderstorms because they spawn tornadoes.
She's still smiling though!
Great article..I am looking so forward to your blogcomment and
I love your page on your post.. That is so pretty..
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