E.B. White meets the Electric Octopus
Today I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.
Actually, I knew yesterday.
I had a rare, beautiful moment of true clarity...no hesitations, grayness or weighing of multiple possibilities. Frankly, I get enough of that in most other folds of my life; it was nice for existence to throw me a bone, even if said bone led only to a blog entry.
The moment came while driving home at night during the most fantastic lightning storm I've ever experienced. I was alone, and the spectacle taking place in the skies was so awesome--in the ancient, terrifying-yet-wonderful nugget of the word--that I very nearly decided no one would notice if I didn't stop to close and chain our very metal gate surrounded by very tall poles and trees, further surrounded by a vast, very open field.
Gate conquered, I set out on the road towards home. Home, and the promise of a few cozy hours before bed spent with the partner I love watching the lights rumble through our windows, a vignette that sounded like absolute perfection to me. I'd had that thought running through my mind for hours. Earlier in the day, during a talk with my father, he remarked what a good feeling that is, the going home to someone who's waiting for you, who loves you.
And he's so right. It's one of the best things. I take it for granted constantly, when truly, it is the meat and bones that keep my world together most days. Gross as that analogy is, it really is that visceral, that essential.
So, I was excited to get home.
However, I was driving further and further into an electric labyrinth of incredible storm wrapping itself in all directions around me. Lightning would strike in three places at once, and a singe occurred nearly every 5 seconds on the dot. The landscape was lit like day for miles, tinted purple and with the brightness of something found when it is least expected and the most out of place. No rain, no thunder. Just lightning. More than lightning even-- an unleashing of Nature.
Thus, I'm already agog-- unleashing of Nature will do that to ya, of course--and then it happens.
The air goes still in the car. In a space of time equivalent to the pause that cushions an exhale before your next inhale, a crack of lightning comes straight down from above. Splintering into 8 rivulets and sprawling left and right far into the periphery, it becomes the most powerful and spacey octopus ever imagined.
I feel electricity in my entire body. My heart, my hair, my eyeballs and my skin are all buzz and seem to levitate for the tiniest of moments.
Long have I admired the power of a Texas storm, but until now they've always been of the gullywashing kind, not the “ Jeez..maybe Zeus is real” kind.
Of course, I am not the first person to have a momentous Mother Nature experience, nor is it the most dramatic amongst the countless stories that are out there. But the storm and that lightning octopus, in a strange way, seemed inextricably tied to the way I was already feeling while driving towards home, headed toward one I love.
Yes, maybe it's because he eight arms and makes my heart flutter. However, I think it's more about a feeling of gratitude. A bearing witness to a thing that feels so individual and particular to my own story of myself, but a thing that is exactly what makes me human, just like everyone else. The awe I felt amidst the power of that storm and the contentment felt when I turned the doorknob to yell, “Babe, I'm home! Guess what!?” --I think it's what being alive is.
Lucky for me—and if you knew her, you'd know why—I had the chance to speak with Alex's mother yesterday, and she gave me a gift. The author Verlyn Klinkenborg (I know.) is an essayist and journalist who writes pages about his life in the country. He writes regularly for the New York Times and is celebrated for his style. For some, he might be a bit too Charlotte's Web-ish...but that's part of what I like about him.
Al's mom wanted me to have Kirkenborg's most recent books as a source of inspiration. This here blog could maybe populate the lint, just maybe, that gathers underneath a boogery handkerchief in the pocket of Mr. Klinkenborg, but I certainly can attest to having already received inspiration from his work.
On the first page of The Rural Life he writes about what it is to be a “conscientious journal keeper,” and he says some prophetic things (this book being published on the cusp of the blogosphere explosion and preceding the one trillion, ahem, boobs who think their boobish thoughts are worth the time of others).
Amid those beginning thoughts, there's one sentiment in particular that feels just right to me. In detailing why he finds himself compelled to record the sound of a plow in the early morning and the way twine from a hay bale curls when cut, he describes himself as a “private watcher of a small patch of ground.”
That's what I'd like to think I could be. I'm here and our farm is here, to watch and be attentive to our small piece of the world. And that adds up to taking part in the larger world.
I am grateful to have seen a stormy sky that millions of people will never get to see.
I'm grateful to have someone waiting for me at home. I'm grateful to be happy.
I'm grateful for the chance to watch a small patch of ground.