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August 22, 2003: Summer night

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Usually, when it is summer here in the Sacramento valley, we stay inside where it is air conditioned and cool. We only open the windows late in the evening when the temperature outside has dropped to more bearable levels (although sometimes it's too hot even for that), and we only venture outside in the evening when we are going somewhere; from one air conditioned place to another. Summer in the Sacramento valley is not my favorite time of year. I have never been a fan of the heat, and this summer there have been far too many days of 90+ degrees for my taste.

Last night, however, was a summer night I would gladly repeat. This is because last night we had a thunderstorm (in August!); a thunderstorm to beat all thunderstorms; a thunderstorm with more flash and bang and length and coverage than any thunderstorm I have ever seen before.

Driving home from Yosemite we saw a few lightning flashes in the distance but I didn't think anything of it. There was rain while we were there in the park and I assumed it was just left over from whatever cloud system had passed by to dump water on us there. But that storm system apparently followed us home, and by the time it was dark, the storm was in full force.

I walked outside to get the mail and stared up into the sky in delighted awe. Lightning flashed so often that it lit up the sky in every direction. There was rain but it was soft and warm and not at all distracting from the show being put on by the night sky. It was with great reluctance I returned inside, and I opened all the windows to let in the cool rain-scented air.

The thunder didn't start until later, and by then I'd wisely closed all the windows, more against the sporadic downpours of heavy rain than against the noise. It closed in slowly on our little town until it was crashing directly overhead, so loud it seemed as if someone had set up timpani in our attic. It woke me at about 1am both the rattle of thunder so loud I could almost feel it, and the frantic exodus of seven terrified cats who practically flew through the air to find places to hide from the noise. And then again a few hours later, as if someone was bowling across our wood floors great roars of sound and rain until it sounded as if it might come somehow through the roof.

When I woke this morning the rain had mostly stopped and the thunder was finally dying away. The early morning sun made it hard to tell if there was still lightning and by the time I left for work the storm had all but disappeared, leaving nothing but a lingering humidity, and flashing clocks on all the digital appliances since, as thunderstorms do, it had knocked out the power.

We've been talking about it all day, this incredible storm. It's cleared away completely now and we can already feel the heat settling back over the area, shoving away any wishful thinking that perhaps fall's cooler weather might be just around the corner. By tonight it will seem as if last night never happened.

This entry is a collaboration for On Display. This month's topic is "summer nights."

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