A Tale of Two Thunderstorms

Last week, I had two separate experiences with two very different types of rainstorms. As I usually do with rainstorms, and snowstorms for that matter, I marveled at the strength and breadth of the storms and nature’s ability to halt everything and force us to bend to its will. These are the stories of both storms.

The first occurred here in Bethesda, last Tuesday. I was sitting and working at my desk in my apartment, from which, when the blinds are open, I have an unobstructed view of the courtyard. It was about 3:50pm, and I didn’t need to leave the apartment until around 6:30 that evening. It was bright, sunny and calm outside, but I could hear loud, intimidating claps of thunder in the distance. Only 15 minutes later, dark, dense clouds moved in and I was forced to turn on my desk lamp so I could see what I was working on. The thunder claps continued. And then it started to rain, slowly at first, but quickly transforming into thick sheets of water being dumped into the courtyard from above. I got up from my desk and opened the slider so I could hear and smell the rain. It wasn’t blowing in and lashing the windows, just falling straight down and bouncing off the stone below. Then, fewer than 10 minutes later, the storm had passed. The rain shifted to a light drizzle, as if the clouds had been sprinting around a track and collapsed when they completed their lap. The entire life cycle of the storm lasted fewer than 40 minutes. By the time I left the house at 6:30, even the puddles had started to dry up. The rain was gone.

Then, a few days later, I went to Fort Lauderdale. When I arrived, it was overcast and humid with a few drizzles. The second day, when the weather was still the same, we decided to go for a swim. We rode the elevator down three floors, at which time we needed to cross the parking lot to get to the pool. But when the elevator doors opened, so did the sky. Since we were in Florida, we didn’t retreat back upstairs; we waited, and within a few minutes the rain let up enough for us to start across the parking lot. But a walk quickly turned to a run when the skies began to open up again, and we took shelter under a tent set up in the pool area meant to provide shade. Even though we were standing in the middle of the tent, the force of the rain still managed to reach us, coating our skin with a layer of spray. Eventually the rain let up again, and we crept out to the pool, where we enjoyed a swim while the storm held to a drizzle.

But unlike the storm in Bethesda, this one was not over. Over the next three days the skies toyed with us, brightening at times and threatening to convince us that the sun would come out, only to open up again without even the courtesy of darkening first. We watched the rain pour down onto the hood of our car and onto the roofs of others with such force that I was convinced a drop or two would leave a dent. We drove through intermittent downpours that the windshield wipers could barely keep up with. We ran to take cover, though it didn’t keep us from getting soaked.

Sure, I was a little frustrated that I had come to Florida and it had stormed for all but the last few hours of our final day. But when you’re witness to a storm that long and powerful, or one as short and powerful as last week’s at home, there isn’t much you can do but look out the window. Weather is often known to derail plans, but it isn’t something you can control; you certainly can’t will the rain to stop and the sun to come out. The least you can do, in my opinion, is accept the weather, and in the case of these storms, appreciate what you’re witnessing.

It’s amazing that the weather can change from a sunny day one moment to a torrential downpour the next. It’s fascinating that clouds can move so fast, and hold so much more water than their neighbors, that it can pour in one place for a few minutes and then move on. It’s riveting that clouds pale enough to let the sun’s brightness shine through can yield rains as heavy as those that completely black it out. And it’s equal parts humbling and unnerving that we can’t do anything about it.

These days, there are innumerable stressors we come across in our everyday lives. Some of those, like paying bills and completing chores, we have to deal with before they can be eliminated. But others, like what the weather is going to be, shouldn’t fall into the same category. I try to limit the things that cause me stress by weeding out and accepting those I can’t control, like the weather. And when I do, I can appreciate things like thunderstorms for all their soaking-wet glory.

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