The last daylight had just oozed from the sky when the rain started. About 20 minutes later, the satellite stream on the television broke up and another 10 found us — me and Owen — in complete darkness. And silence. It’s amazing how much noise electricity makes.
I lit a few candles and got into bed. I did not close the blinds (What was the point?) and lay there for the next hour staring out the window at the cotton field, lit as though by a strobe light, erratic flashes followed by utter darkness. The thunder rumbled deeper than usual, like the roar of a dragon being awakened from a centuries-long sleep.
I’ve never known whether you really can measure the location of lightning by counting seconds between the strike and the sound of thunder, but that does not mean that I don’t count. I do. But this time I didn’t. This time I welcomed the nearness of nature’s reminder that I am in control of nothing.
Sometime after dozing off in the warm darkness, I was awakened by the familiar buzz and click of electricity’s restoration. I blew out the candles, turned out the lights and went back to sleep, imagining the damage that would greet me in the morning.
I’ve lived on this square of dirt for 37 years. I’ve picked up after hurricanes and tornadoes and an ice storm that left us without power for five days. I’ve watched ordinary summer storms march across the fields like a parading platoon and leaving deep ditches across the rows. I’ve seen, from this vantage point, every possible combination of precipitation and wind and the one thing they have in common is that they always leave a mark.
Be it puddles deep enough to soak the axle of a pickup truck or limbs the size of a grown man’s thigh, a couple of fertilizer buckets of leaves clogging a gutter or rocking chairs standing on their heads in the shrubs, or, most difficult, a 50-foot pine tree broken at its roots and blocking the road, there is always damage. This storm, this two-hour light show that took out the power and emptied over an inch of rain on thirsty ground, would be no different.
Except it was.
I walked outside the next morning to survey the damage. I couldn’t find any. Not one branch littered the yard. Not one piece of furniture lay on its side. Not one bird feeder had been slung from its perch. Not one. The storm came, showed off and demonstrated its power, all without leaving a trail of destruction or, even, disarray.
I stood in the sunshine staring at everything I could not see, everything that didn’t happen. Except for the damp squishiness of the grass and the jauntiness of the cotton plants — newly blooming all pink and white and rose — one would never have known that there had been a storm.
But there had been. I saw it, heard it, felt it, and, unwisely, judged it by every other storm I’ve ever seen or heard or felt.
There’s a sermon there. And despite the fact that it feels as though I’ve arrived just in time for the benediction, I got the message.