It’s about 2 in the morning on Wednesday as I sit down to write this, and for once I don’t have my headphones on while Pandora feeds me with half a century of music. Instead, my soundtrack consists of a massive, much-needed storm, complete with rain drumming on the ceiling and pattering against the windowpanes as thunder sends my ribcage rattling.
There’s something viscerally rewarding in riding out a rainstorm in the middle of the night. Watching the entire world illuminated in stark blue-white flashes for only fractions of a second at a time thrills me in some primal way that nearly defies rational discourse, leaving you nearly no choice but to employ exegesis as an interpretative method. This seems hardly inappropriate, considering how nearly every primitive culture has relied upon a divine explanation for why and how white-hot fire and deafening roars split the sky; we may know what thunder and lightning is now on a scientific level, but this doesn’t diminish the Old Testament-like destructive majesty of the phenomenon in the least.
The seemingly random nature of this destruction reinforces the divine origins of occurrences like lightning strikes and other forces of nature. It’s why things like hurricanes and floods are referred to as “acts of God,” after all – there’s seemingly no reasoning behind when and where something like this occurs. Sure, you can try to circumvent or safeguard against its effects by doing things like putting lightning rods on your house or sandbagging your property once the creek starts to rise, but there’s no ironclad guarantee that you’re not going to take it on the chin from Mother Nature, no matter how much effort you put in or how desperately you plead.
Nothing illustrates this point better than my experiences last year with Hurricane Irene. It was an unfortunate choice for the name, considering the only Irene I’ve ever known was a former landlady who was more passive-aggressive and vaguely threatening than anything else, but the storm was a doozy as it rolled through southeastern Pennsylvania. We had battened all the hatches and pretty much just hunkered down in our cottage, hoping that the 200-year-old stone walls would hold up against Irene’s onslaught.
Unable to sleep that night until the storm passed us by or swept us away, I was huddled downstairs, listening to the wind and rain howl against the cottage. On more than one occasion I heard the heart-stopping sound of splintering wood, and I peered from a window, the diffused glow of a flashlight revealing little and sending my imagination running wild. It wasn’t until the next morning that I saw how close we had actually been to disaster: a massive tree had been uprooted somewhere in the night, landing next door and within spitting distance of the cottage. If it had fallen at a different angle, it could have easily bashed in our roof.
It occurs to me that hurricane season is just around the corner. He idea fills me with both anticipation and fear; I know that it’s pretty rare for a high-powered tropical storm to make it this far north, but it’s something that’s going to be in the back of my head. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it – there’s really nothing to be done in an event like that. You can’t exactly argue or strike a deal with nature, no matter how much you may respect it. You’d may as well try to teach a fish how to ride a bicycle.