In Praise of Summer Thunderstorms

Summer is my time.

Swimming across lakes.
Long evenings full of robin calls and mourning dove song.
Building my breakfast around fresh kale from the garden.
Wearing maybe three items of clothing.
Drenching my eyes in the vivid green everywhere.

And how I love summer storms.
The metal-gray clouds boiling up in the west.
The first intimations of thunder.
The shock and thrill of lightning ripping the sky into pieces.
And the smell that arises after the first drops of rain – fresh and green and dusty.

Years ago when visiting friends in Milwaukee, I witnessed a fantastic summer storm over Lake Michigan as we were driving home from a concert. That night my affection coalesced into the opening lines for a song of praise:

I want to bite the lightning
I want to taste the thunder
Roll it around in my mouth like dark red wine.
I want the rain to bathe me,
Baptize, cleanse and save me.
I want the wind to blow away all that’s dead or dying
The sky is crying…

It makes sense to me that many peoples of the world venerate a god of thunder. In Hinduism, the thunder god is Indra. In Greek mythology, it’s Zeus. And Norse mythology features Thor, son of Odin. Shango is the deity of fire and thunder in the Yoruba tradition of Africa and the diaspora. When I hunted the Internet for gods of thunder, I found a list of well over one hundred examples from around the world.

I guess I’m not the only one who draws power and inspiration from the storm.

Storms thrill us because they are dangerous and beautiful at the same time. They bring change in both subtle and radical ways. This week there were isolated hailstorms in my region. Crops and gardens were shredded; cars and roofs were damaged.

I call the miracle of hailstones, falling ice from a summer sky
I call the cold, blue fire that leaves an imprint behind my eye
I call the grumbling of gray cloud
The thunder’s voice that shouts out loud
I call the blessing of the rain
I love the rain, love the rain, love the rain…..

Storms are nothing to mess with. There are areas of my city that are still stark and treeless from the ferocity of a tornado.

And yet I relish those mornings like the one last week, when I woke in the predawn to the low grumble of thunder and a flashbulb of lightning against the bedroom curtains. By the time I got up, the storm had passed. Stepping into my fresh-washed garden with my coffee in hand, I saw the morning sun dancing in the trembling raindrops on each leaf and stem. Did I mention that the air smelled divine? Like summer itself? Like everything I love about living on this astonishingly alive and vivid planet?

Click here to hear the song:

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About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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