It’s the wind first. You hear the trees rattle, shushle, shudder, then all is still. You see the flash from the corner of your eye. You might go to the window and look out into the dark, dark night, a night without stars or moon. The trees warn again. The strong southeasterly which blew warm all day is gone now and a cool, brisk breeze blows in from the west. Then in the dark, still night, light flashes again, far off to the west, silent. The trees speak and this time do not fall silent and you can hear the patter of fat raindrops on the ground, just a few here of there, random, like a toddler at the piano. There one might appear on the window, then another, as you watch the storm roll in.
The silent lighting grows brighter, and soon the rumble of thunder announces itself to anyone who hasn’t been listening for the past hour – the storm is come. It rolls, almost gentle, like the tolling of a bell and announces the rain which falls steady and darkens the pavement. The sounds of the trees change with the rain, half benediction and half blight, the water which nourishes their roots and the wind which could snap their branches. And the lightning, ever the lightning comes steadily on. The wind begins to rattle the windows and streetlights leave wobbly reflections on the rain streaked glass.
And suddenly it is upon you, the light bright and blinding, the thunder close and dark. It speaks this dark thing, of joyous death, of perilous life, and all the cycles in between. Above dark underbellies, stark white thunderheads glow in bright turmoil beneath the moonlight. For us mere mortals they are only to be glimpsed now and then as lighting jumps from cloud to cloud.
What was at first white sheets, the spark of a thousand flashbulbs, is now jagged bolts. It strikes the tower just beyond the window and the lights go dark, the thunder blinds the mind to all else. For a moment even the red warning beacon at the topmost reach ceases to flash. Yet the stone stands immobile, immovable. While all the toils of man are at its mercy, all our gadgetry and gears, the stone simply shrugs. It was here before, after all, long before man came and cut it into blocks and erected it into a tower, it was here and never did it fear the lightning.
Moments pass, silent but for the steady diagonal thrum of rain, like the harmony of a string section, and the wind, rising and falling like the brass. Then the lightning calls, like the conductor’s wand slashing the air and the great timpani and bass of thunder answers. All around the drama of the heavens unfold like a symphony.
And life goes on. The red light atop the indifferent stone blinks once more. The cars on the street fly by, wheels hissing on wet streets. The man walks by below my window unhurried and stops to light a cigarette. In the pouring rain, he stops to light a cigarette, cupping the tiny red flame in his hand before continuing on. And I sit, high and warm and safe and dry and watch the light silhouette the trees and dance from cloud to cloud. I listen as summer’s song gives one more encore before it fades away into autumn.
I have missed this song. I traded it for other things, for greater things and lesser. Here on the plains it is so different than high in the mountains where I whiled away my summer. There the storms come quick and fast, out of nowhere and with a sharp blast are gone again beyond the ridges. But here, no here, we get the full melody, the glorious harmony. Here we see it coming, multihued clouds lit by day, or merely a whisper of wind on the night breeze preceding measure upon measure of song no man could write. Here it builds and we hold our breath. Here it crashes and we sigh. Here it rumbles on, lingering over the east while we wish it might have stayed with us a bit longer, yet are glad it has gone. And the night passes into still relief and we turn back into our warm beds.
Until we hear the wind.