#SATurday: The Lightning Lesson

#SATurday The Lightning Lesson

When I was little, part of my bedtime routine was taking a shower at night. But—as my mother would have it—we had one very important rule. No showering if there was a thunderstorm outside. She told us we’d be electrocuted if we did.

Now, being little and a future artist, you should know upfront that I was a tad bit dramatic as a kid. (Maybe a little today, too.) But there was one night where a babysitter said I had to take a bath before my parents came home . . . even though it was raining. I freaked out. And by “freaked out”, I mean screamed and cried while I took a birdbath out of the sink (and I’m pretty sure my babysitter considered quitting her job because I never saw her again.)

Fast-forward a few years later and I got over my phobia my mom instilled in me. I wrote it off as one of those nuances she had, one of those personality traits or funny stories you tell around the table . . . until I got strep throat. That day, while I was napping around the house, I happened to watch Myth Busters—the taking a shower during a thunderstorm episode. And if you’ve never seen it, I suggest you watch it (if you want to be terrified of thunderstorms for the rest of your life, that is). I tried to find a legal sample clip, but alas, Myth Busters charges $1.99 via YouTube, so here’s an article that explained what happened in the episode: Is It Dangerous To Take A Shower During A Thunderstorm?

Lightning photo provided by Bruce Guenter, modifications made under creative commons license.
Photo provided by Bruce Guenter, modifications made under creative commons license.

Now that you’re statically charged, you must feel how I felt—horrified that I ever doubted my mother. She wasn’t a dumb woman. What trekky could be? But—being a teenage artist—I think rebellion came naturally, even when she wasn’t physically here to rebel against. (I am walking proof that you can, in fact, rebel against the dead . . . and I say that with the utmost respect . . . especially now that I’m older and realize how right she was about, oh, everything.)

You see, originally, I wrote this off as a nuance—something I said above but didn’t entirely explain. While growing up in Kansas, she lived in this two-story house on a golf course, and the old chimney had been struck by lightning numerous times. Numerous times. I still remember my grandfather sarcastically repeating the phrase “Lightning never strikes the same place twice.” Because it does. At least, it did. It struck my grandparents’ home—the same one I wrote about in The Secret Garden of Trees—and later, while we were living in Georgia, our neighbor’s tree was struck with lightning. I cannot even begin to describe how loud that moment in my life was. But there was fire, and then, the rain came down so hard that the fire was gone, but the tree was split to the roots, and my mother and I happened to be sitting in the living room near it when it happened. I thought lightning was just a phobia of hers. Now I realize lightning is just a part of nature—as obvious as that sounds—and it’s better to be cautious of it but also to recognize the beauty of it.

Nature has a way of reminding us just how human and fragile we are, but nature also shows us just how majestic the world can be. It is both frightening and fascinating, but today, I find those two words are very much the same when held under the thunderstorm umbrella of respect, and I respect my memories of nature just as much as a cherish my memories with my mother . . . yes, even the lightning hitting the tree one.


11 thoughts on “#SATurday: The Lightning Lesson

  1. Good article as usual. I had no idea about the lightening storm/showering conundrum. Though, living in Manchester England we don’t get many thunderstorms. And it is a refreshing wake up call when mother nature gets angry and puts us in our place.

  2. I was told the same thing as a kid . . . and a month ago to make sure I didn’t bathe my son during a storm. The cast iron bath tub probably doesn’t help. Never had to worry about lightning strikes until I moved to Florida for a few years. Still remember watching a storm and seeing a bolt hit one of the other apartment buildings. The wind was so bad that the firemen couldn’t get the hoses to work and the lightning forced them into their trucks. Nobody was hurt, including a cat that people weren’t sure about for a few hours. Apparently the cat went out a window and down a tree.

    And it looks like we have lightning storms here for most of next week. ‘Yippee!’

    1. Lightning storms are here too! Crazy how everyone has a story about them one way or another. Then again, we all have probably been in one. But nature sure has a way of connecting us.

      1. Maybe it’s the first or most common ‘scary weather’ that we come across as kids. The other ones seem to be more easily avoided or handled. As children, we get warned about so many things in regards to lightning. No showers, not under trees, no open fields, no kites, no metal poles, doesn’t strike twice, you can get white streaks in your hair, and you can’t get superpowers from it. That last one might have just been a warning for me.

  3. I enjoyed this. When I was little and it thundered outside, my mom used to tell us it was the dwarves bowling in the hills. Since we lived in the hills, her explanation was very plausible!

    For me, though, the lesson of nature is that people sometimes need to let go of controlling things. We can’t control everything, but we can make ourselves crazy and/or unhappy by trying.

  4. As a mother, all I can tell you is, “Listen to your mother!” Do you think she makes these things up, using her valuable capital with her offspring, for nothing?

    Water conducts electricity, and so do metal pipes.

    If you don’t believe your mom, listen to your physics teacher.

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