Lightning is rare in the Northwest Corner.
We get it several times a year, but generally it's what we call "heat lightning" -- where the sky lights up from some storm beyond the horizon, often so far away we can't even hear the thunder. As kids, with closer strikes, we would count the seconds until we heard the thunder, and divide by five to calculate how far away (in miles) the electrical discharge occurred. Six or seven miles was fairly common.
But sometimes we see real, honest bolts of lightning, up close, zig-zagging down from the sky, just like we see in movies (or like I've seen flying into cities like Miami). Not often, but sometimes. Just like sometimes we have a heavy snow during the winter.
A little over an hour ago, as I sat at this very same computer, with no warning at all, the room lit up with lightning. Before I could begin counting "one one thousand, two one thousand," a bomb seemingly exploded. The entire house shook. The roar of thunder -- after the first sharp explosion -- rolled on for five or ten seconds.
I wasn't terrified. It wasn't like being hit with an earthquake. But it was startling, and it was close. Very close. The Seattle Times reports that about 500 houses are without power because of lightning strikes. Not me. The lights didn't even dim, as they frequently do during tree-downing wind storms.
But it reminds me once again -- an obsession of mine -- of how tenuous is our hold on life. That was one loud blast, and it was close. I don't know what it struck, but something -- a tree, a chimney, someone holding an umbrella -- served as a conduit between ground and sky for a fierce discharge of amperage. It could have been my roof. It could have been me out in the yard.
Nature's amazing, and -- as the cliché has it -- capricious. I mentioned in a recent post that a meteorite could strike us at any time -- but we learn to disregard that fact. A meteorite, an asteroid, a killer earthquake -- or a simple lightning bolt.
Both my cats have been under my bed upstairs ever since the bolt hit. They may not share our human ruminations on mortality and fatalism. But they know something damn scary when they hear it.
I'll go calm them down, uttering soothing platitudes that I don't really believe myself. "Come on you guys -- it was just a little thunder. Nothing to worry about!"
Nothing at all.
The Arboretum is across the street from my house. No wonder it sounded close.