God Goes Bowling

Rain and moist environments invite moss, lichen, and fungi.

Cold pulses of air stab through the thick blanket of humidity that lays on this region like a wet feather mattress. Even on the northwest side of this mountain we can see moist air being lifted by sinking cold air that forces the the dank atmosphere skyward. The battle between these two atmospheres creates static and I can feel the hair standing up on my arm as if I’d just seen a ghost. There will be a thunderstorm today no doubt; but there are unanswered questions. Where? When? How bad?

Adia, my female bloodhound is nervous, and hides in my office. Cooper stands on the deck with his nose in the air. It seems he senses danger. It took me years to learn the recipe for a strong storm but dogs recognize the necessary ingredients long before humans know what is going on.

I wander out onto our deck and look northwest. The sky is dark and angry. The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for Windham County in Vermont which is only about 7 miles from here. I often laugh at how the weather forecasters use state and county lines to issue warnings. It is as if they expect a storm to respect a political boundary; this is human nonsense at its greatest proportion. The dark clouds have long spiral tails that hang down. What I really am witnessing is all of the warm moisture being lifted into the clouds. The speed of the cloud movement, from west to east, is astounding. The clouds are no longer separate. The delineation from one condensed mass of moisture to another has been smudged into a carpet of black and gray.

Stock photo from Deskpicture.com

A gripping and sudden cold blast sends Cooper inside. From the deck I see him go into our bathroom. Only today Maureen asked me where we should go if we ever had a tornado given we do not have a cellar. I thought about how we built the house. The bathroom is on the first floor, has a staircase above it , and two very solid walls. I stated without any great confidence that the bathroom would be best. An hour has passed and Cooper is following my directions. Strange, but true.

Maureen comes and stands on the deck with me. We watch mashed black clouds with menacing tails rush east. The skies open up. Rain falls like there is no tomorrow. I am reminded of the the tornadoes that struck an area south of here almost exactly a year ago. They stayed on the ground for forty miles; F-4′s that blew away the past, present, and future of hundreds of people. A wide swath of destruction that will be evident for a generation was formed in moments; homes lost, lives dashed, dreams sent to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Maureen and I look at each other. And I say, not today, not this time.

Lightning careens down and cracks open the earth. Thunder pounds this part of the planet with the force of ancient Gods. Winds force the heavy rain horizontally. Our house lights flicker and then they are gone. The only thing we can do is watch, listen, and take the storm into our hearts and minds. Absorbing a bad storm lessens the fright. Fear has no place here. We sit quietly. The storm pounds on and on.

Cooper rides out the storm!

Cooper groans in the bathroom. Adia whines upstairs in my office. The low, low pressure is almost too much for them to bear. I go to each of them to comfort them. If they see me upright and moving about it will make them more confident. I pet each one for a few minutes telling them it won’t last long. And just then another loud crack and simultaneous boom reinvents their fears.

It is almost June. This changing of weather this time of year, from cool to warm to cool, is normal. There have been many storms like this. Perhaps thousands in my lifetime that I have endured. And each time I wonder what is in store. When the atmosphere feels dangerous we all stand alert.

I think back to my childhood. When I was very young and frightened by a storm my older sister would get in my bed at night when the thunder and lightning storms raged on and tell me that God was bowling. That used to make me laugh. I pictured a giant bowling alley, with ginormous pins, and gargantuan bowling balls being cast about making loud crashing noises. The image of God bowling was hilarious!

This series of storms has ebbs and flows. Cold fronts seem to come in waves, like the sea rolling to shore. With each wave there is another line of thunder boomers. The sky goes from gray to black to gray. The sound in the sky goes from quiet to loud to quiet. And even though the clock tells me it is still the afternoon the view out our windows is dark. Each bolt of lightning produces a strobe-like flash.

Since the days of my childhood I have counted the time between a flash of lighting and the sound of thunder. I count slowly, about once per second. Sound travels at 1126 feet per second. A count of five means the storm is roughly a mile away. A count of fifteen means it is roughly three miles away. This is something I learned from my father. He was a sailor and knew the dangers of an electrical storm, especially one at sea. Counting through these storms is valuable. I can tell how far away storms are after they have passed and I can tell the distance of storms as they approach. Like waves crashing to shore they keep coming.

I look outside. The wind blows and the white underneath side of the leaves on the trees is exposed. This contrasts sharply against the darkness of the day. It is dramatic but familiar. I remind myself that I’ve been here before when not in the safety of a house. Being caught in a big lake in a lightning storm is dangerous. Especially in an aluminum boat. A race for shore is appropriate. You can’t be too careful when it comes to lightning. A bolt of lightning can be a billion volts at 200000 amperes. It can turn a human into charcoal. Not a pleasant thought.

Even being inside can be dangerous. Maureen tells a story where once while at a camp a bolt of lightning came into a kitchen while everyone was playing cards and struck a brass bowl. It rang like a bell. The card game ended right there and then.

Light at the end of the storm tunnel.

And without notice the storm stops. Lightning can be seen to the east. The thunder is many counts behind the lightning. The heavy rain dies. The dark skies turn blue. But the winds stay blustery.

Even God has to cool down after a rowdy bowling match.

Written for www.wildramblings.com.

  • Guy

    Hi Bill
    I thought the bowling had something to do with Rip Van Winkle and Washington Irving thanks for setting me straight. I was raised in Southern Ontario where we had tremendous thunderstorms so you post brought back many vivid memories. The storms here are mild by comparison although the dogs especially Shaun gets fairly nervous possibly they realize the inherent danger better than us. I often wonder how wild animals react.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

     If the storms in central and northern Quebec are anything like the ones in southern Ontario they are some HUMDINGERS!  The most dramatic storms I’ve ever witnessed occur deep in the bush.  I’ve been caught in more than one on a lake and it is not pretty.  Violent, completely violent!

    Most wild animals settle in.  I’ve seen moose lay down in thick brush in a T-storm keeping its head up watching for any danger.  Somehow they know they’re tall and lightning strikes tall objects!

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com/ Emily B

    Bill, we used to talk about thunder signaling God bowling, too! That, and moving the furniture around :)

    I loved this description and analysis of a strong storm. Just a week and a half ago, we have a dozen of them that pounded through day after day, and each time I was drawn to windows, to the open deck, to the wind and rain. Something about all that power. Nature really is something to be respected!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

     The event I wrote about was almost a week ago.  Likely the same set of storms moving east.  I remember seeing them running across Wisconsin the day before they came here.  Interesting that you and I experience the same weather occasionally. 

    My sister used to also say that it must be God moving his furniture!  At age five (or so) I thought that was pretty funny too.  I used to picture this really old guy with a beard with a moving van.  Of course she meant moving it around in his house, but I did not understand that part of the story!

    Yes, raw power.

  • http://gardenpath.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    I was just on the phone with my mom in Oklahoma.  She said the air was sultry, and she could feel a storm brewing.  Having lived there, I knew exactly what she was meant. It was interesting  how your dogs reacted to your storm.  While we were under tornado alerts, my parents always watched the animals carefully. Even the cows seemed to know when something was going to happen, and would head for cover before well before the green cast to the sky appeared.  I guess that is what country folks did before the age of radio and TV warnings.
    Your storm may have gone thorough here during the night last week. We had about an hour of lightning, thunder, and heavy rain. The strange part of it was that it was five in the morning, not the usual time for that kind of weather.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

     Modern weather forecasters have gotten better with predicting potentially bad storms and tornadoes.  The whole idea is to keep people on the alert so they can seek shelter.  And your right, knowledgeable country folk used to watch livestock, wild animals, and pets to alert them of potential danger.  It worked for those who knew the warning signs and what to watch for.

    The storms passed through here late in the day, I think Thursday, and well into the evening.  No tornadoes but the thunder and lightning were formidable. 

    The hounds tell me they’d rather do without.

  • http://montucky.wordpress.com/ Montucky

    This was a timely post, as I sit here tonight awaiting the arrival of what has been billed as a fierce and dangerous thunderstorm. I love them, but I’m sure my ardor would cool very much were I living in an area where tornados are part of the climate pattern. Like you, I count the thunder and enjoy tracking the storm. I’m hoping this one does make it here tonight.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

     Counting between thunder and lightning is a great, and calming, pass time in a thunder storm.  We seldom used to see tornadoes in NE, especially because of all the rolling hills.  They are becoming more frequent as the climate warms up and those darned things don’t seem to mind bouncing from hill top to hill top like a kangaroo in search of a new view.

  • Teresa Evangeline

    I love that Cooper knew which room to take refuge in. I love thunderstorms, have always slept better during them, and must admit to having a desire to be a stormchaser. Of course, I’ve never actually seen a tornado touch down, so it’s a fantasy. And the wreckage they can leave behind is another story, but absorbing storms does lessen the fear, it seems.

    It was easy to imagine the scene. Good storytelling.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

     Thank you Teresa.  Cooper seems to understand exactly what I say and read my mind.  It is pretty amazing.  I have a great respect for thunder storms and an even greater respect for tornadoes.  Both can be deadly and both can be fascinating-from a distance. 

    I’ve tornadoes over the ocean and in the mid west.  Their overall God-awful power is something to behold and be terrified of. 

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com/ Emily B

    PS: Bill, will you send me your email address/mailing address? Since I didn’t hear back from one of my Frozen Earth winners, you are the first alternate! I’d love to get those DVDs to you for some stormy evening viewing. :)  emilybrisse@gmail.com

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

     Wow!  You made my day!  That’s very cool!  Thank you!

  • Cirrelda

    Your writing gives good examples of earth in action – these descriptions of weather lend to good learning. Hearkens back to the weather class I taught … with Ms. Cool who stayed low and slow, and Mr. Warm who was a fast mover and always going up.  I, too, have not minded storms – it is best to be aware of them – ‘absorb them’ that’s a neat way to say it – and that helps with the fear, just as you say. Poor dogs, though. One camping trip with our Maggie and the 3 of us in tent, we had the biggest rain and lightning storm for at least two hours after we had bedded down for the night. Our dog shivered in the middle of our sleeping bags as the tent lit up every few minutes and those ‘bowling pins’ of your sister’s were crackin’! We couldn’t very well leave our bags to look at the sky – and the sound felt very ominous. Was a tree to be hit and fall on us? Easy to expect the worst!
    A very enjoyable ‘ride’ through your storm, Bill!!

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you.  Camping in a t-storm is thrilling.  Did it just this past Friday while on a fishing trip (I’m still on a fishing trip but between spots-300 miles apart).  We were caught in a major hail storm in a new tent, which performed wonderfully.

  • http://outwalkingthedog.wordpress.com/ Out Walking the Dog

    The years I lived in North Texas I experienced thunderstorms – and tornado warnings – that seemed to me a whole other category of storm from the ones I’d known before.  But NYC has its share of wicked thunderstorms and lightning strikes. Scary stuff. My dog Lucy (now dead) was terrified of storms and would start pacing and panting long before the storm hit. As you say, I think it was the low pressure that alerted & upset her.

  • Wild_Bill

     The T-Storms in the south can get remarkably wild!  And I can’t imagine what a thunder storm would be like in a big city.

    My female hound does not like thunder storms and she seems to sense them hours ahead of time!

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