Small Things that Brighten Life: Unexpected Thunderstorm

With all those unwelcome atmospheric visitors to several of our states in the last couple of weeks it feels like “naming the halter in the hanged man’s house” but I can’t help feeling great: yesterday we had a real thunderstorm! For those of you who live in “regular” climate areas it is probably nothing but I haven’t personally experienced a full-blown thunderstorm for over a decade.

In Northern California summer is a dry season: from May to October it doesn’t rain. At all. In my many years here, even before the big drought we had recently for four years, I can remember counted occasions when we had some kind of precipitations during those months. A couple of times I saw remote lightnings and heard thunder but it always was somewhere far away. And in winter, when we’re getting our rains (when it is not a drought), it is too cold for thunderstorms.

Yesterday we had tropical rain and a thunderstorm right here.

SF Bay Area Thunderstorm 2017-09-11

As a child I spent my summers at the grandparents’ house. On one hand, heavy rains and thunderstorms usually meant that I had to stay inside, which was a little boring since I couldn’t run outside with friends the whole day, eat fruit from the trees and do other fun stuff kids do during a summer break. On the other hand, rainy weather meant that I could sleep as long as I wanted without disproving glances and comments from my Grandma; I could read a book the whole day not listening to suggestions to go outside; and I didn’t have to do anything to help in the garden. And after the rain was over, I could put on rain boots and conquer the deepest puddle on the unpaved street, on which my grandparents lived. Since I used to spend there at least two months every summer, a couple of rainy days from time to time weren’t something to be upset about but rather to look forward to.

So yesterday I was enjoying that unexpected rain – for the rain itself, for the memories it brought and for the wonderful smell… Did you notice that summer rain smells not the same way a cold rain does? I was thinking about that scent: I wouldn’t want to smell like that myself, it is not what I would consider a pleasant personal scent but I would love to be able to recreate it as an ambiance aroma.

I have to mention that not everyone in our household was happy yesterday: Rusty was terrified by thunder, and while I was enjoying the weather on the balcony trying to capture a lighting on my phone camera*, he was trying to figure out the best place to hide. And for the rest of the evening any sudden move or unexpected noise would startle him and make his pupils dilated:

Rusty Scared

Today the rain is gone and forgotten. It’s summer again. And Rusty is peacefully sleeping next to me on a chair.

 

Images: my own

*It took be about 5 minutes to come to the realization that the combined my and my camera’s response time weren’t enough to capture a still photo of a lightning; then I switch to iPhone’s “Live” mode – and it worked perfectly.

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29 thoughts on “Small Things that Brighten Life: Unexpected Thunderstorm

  1. Morning! I love thunderstorms. I live in an area where we have many, nevertheless I enjoy every single one. We sometimes get horizontal lightening over the lake too. We always know when a storm is due, as there are several flashing orange lights at different points around the lake, When they are on, the police boats clears the lake, I clear parts of my balcony, and we wait for the storm.
    Yours must have been spectacular though. Must check out the live mode on my phone.

    Lots of love. xxxxxxx

    • I don’t think I’ve seen a big horizontal lightning. Over a lake it must be magical – horizontal or vertical :).

      If you have iPhone 7 or later, then it’s a middle button in the top navigation area of the Camera app – it looks like concentric circles.

  2. It is hard for me to imagine not living somewhere where the wet stuff chucks it down on a regular basis – daily here lately – and storms are by no means unusual. When in Ireland we got caught up in the petticoats of Hurricane Gert.

    I am glad you witnessed such a spectacular storm spectacle, and captured it all so dramatically on camera! Sorry Rusty was so scared though. That face! ;)

  3. Oh poor Rusty! Such biiiiiig eyes …. My cat seems to be oblivious to thunderstorms and even fireworks don’t bother him (no, he’s not deaf – I think he is just the ultimate lazy feline and it would take too much effort to be scared!).

    I have always found thunderstorms quite exciting and you can feel the electricity in the air building up as they head towards you. Scenes of Benjamin Franklin with his kite and Frankenstein in his lab start playing in my mind!

    When I am in the middle of a huge storm, or when I look at the devastation of hurricanes, I can’t help thinking that for all man has achieved, we can never conquer nature; it’s bigger than us.

    • Fireworks are other enemies of Rusty: he’s always jumpy a couple of days after the 4th of July :(. This May we had some thunder at night (without rain), and I spent about 30 minutes trying to calm him down and make him to relax. While usually he perfectly recognizes our emotions, in this case he refuses to acknowledge that we both are very calm and relaxed – go figure.

  4. I love thunderstorms. I grew up in a small town in Iowa where the horizon is huge, and the thunderstorms are LOUD! Having lived away for many years (the last 25 in Pittsburgh, where the hills ensure we don’t have much of a horizon at all), after my parents passed I was out there packing up the house and was woken by one of those epic thunderstorms and was up half the night, watching the lightning and hoping it wouldn’t hit the house. It was too loud to be able to fall asleep again. Fortunately my timid beagle was back home!

    • Yeah, I know that many dogs also suffer from thunder and fireworks. There are special clothes made for both dogs and cats to help with it – ThunderShirt.

      In my childhood we weren’t allowed to open window leafs during thunderstorms – not to get a ball lightning inside the house. Now, reading about how rare ball lightnings are, I realize how silly that “lore” was. But back then it felt very real.

  5. Poor Rusty….my Duncan is terrified by thunderstorms as well. I love a good thunderstorm as well. In Virginia you could see them coming, first the wind, then the thunder and lightning and then the rains…beautiful. When I lived in Atlanta, it just meant that after the rain, it was going to get very hot and humid. Here in Mexico you just get dark skies and a monsoon without the thunder and lightning….but in any case it’s always fascinating to me to watch the skies. xoxoxo

    • Steve!!! It’s great to see you. I started worrying that the move was harder than you expected or something went wrong.

      In my childhood it was hot and humid before the rain but after it would usually get cooler. So summer rains (including tropical rains) that do not bring a relief from the heat still surprise me every time I experience them (usually in Hawaii).

  6. Dramatic capture, Undina! I also love thunderstorms. Sometimes destructive. Sometimes cleansing. Johannesburg is well known for its powerful thunderstorms in summer and I am looking forward to those. Glad to hear Rusty is a happier cat today. R

    • I was extremely proud of myself once I figured out how to get that picture. It would have been much more post-processing had I decided to take a video. With Live pictures all I had to do was to wait doing nothing and tap on the button once the lightning appeared – and the phone that keeps recording several seconds on a loop waiting for the shot would already have recorded what I couldn’t because of a slow reaction.

      Rusty is back to his normal self – just a little jumpy and cautious :)

  7. Oh, I love me a real thunderstorm. They don’t happen so often anymore nowadays.
    I experienced a true one in Florence in the evening of my arrival. There were sound effects and light play among the clouds. I tried to capture it but wasn’t as successful as you with capturing a thunderbolt.

    Feeling sorry for Rusty, did he ran off to some safer place at home, or just stayed petrified by the thunder?

    • Rusty would have hidden somewhere, if our house had any real place for him to hide. Unfortunately for him we do not have too many areas available to him or furniture to crawl under/behind.

      I’m sure you managed to take many other great pictures while in Florence ;)

  8. That Rusty photo is adorable! Sorry he was scared. I love thunderstorms and we have a ton, both in Singapore and Texas. My last two spring, though, our storms have turned violent, ripping tree branches off, etc. Still, I find them exciting and cleansing.

  9. Poor Rusty! I have a friend with me this week who evacuated from South Florida, bringing her cat with her, to get away from Hurricane Irma. He looks a lot like Rusty and was also a bit rattled by all the travel and stormy weather, but he has settled down well. They will both be happy to get home, though!

    • Rusty doesn’t travel well :( it’s a huge stress for him, so I sympathize a lot with everybody who had to evacuate and especially when kids and animals are involved. I’m glad that your friend had where to move to and hope they’ll return home safely soon.

    • I thought already about it. Especially now when I learned how to extract the best shot from the Live picture (initially you could only see it on iPhone but as a still image you had to use what Apple provided), I’ll be using those live photos to capture Rusty with perfumes :)

  10. Nice story. I’m guessing your vSO was even more happy with the rain.
    I’ve bought an Amazon Echo and one of my favourite skills is Sleep Sounds which lets me listen to a thunderstorm as I drift off to sleep.
    Poor Rusty, though what a great pic. It reminded me of that one you once posted of Puss in Boots with the big eyes.

    • You’re correct: he was very happy (and also tried to explain to Rusty that he could follow our lead in being happy and relaxed about what was happening, not scared ;) ).

      Yes, that Puss in Boots’ stare, which I adore, is similar to what Rusty looks like (I can’t say “Reminds me of” since PiB came first :) ).

  11. I would be hiding with Rusty! I don’t like thunder or lightning. It sounds like Northern California would be my kind of climate!

    You’re right, the smell of a summer rain is so distinctive. We’ve already had a couple of cool, rainy days here this September. It’s a completely different smell and a different vibe. It’s the smell of wet leaves as they start to turn. Very autumnal.

    • Now, when you’ve mentioned it, I realized that I like the Fall rain’s smell also. It’s our winter rains that are just water and cold weather and grey skies do not smell interesting (though I still welcome them :) ).

  12. Hey Undina,
    I love thunderstorms too. Sydney has a couple of big ones every year and they are spectacular. One year Jin and I were in the house when it was hit by lightning. That was so amazing and terrifying, fortunately only one light and a roof tile were broken in our house. The lightning grounded itself though and ran next door and melted down their lights, A/C, TVs and computers. On both sides.
    After a storm in the daytime the whole world would go super green, like a colour filter had been put on a picture, for a couple of hours.
    Portia xx

    • It sounds scary! Don’t you have lightning rods? When I lived where thunderstorms happened regularly, it was a necessary part of each house, as far as I remember.
      It is a beautiful imagery – a color filter on the nature scene :)

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