Fear, Kites and Lightning. No Ben.

I found a Sponge-Bob-Riding-a-Surfboard kite, at a $5 store. It was $2. Shaped like the old, Spy-in-the-Sky kite (where can I find one of those?). I can’t wait to fly it, but it’s been raining all week. So, I sit with my box kite and my new Sponge Bob kite, waiting. Waiting, while kite season, a short season, passes us by, but I’m not bemoaning the rain. I live on the edge of what is essentially a high desert. We love rain here. Plus, Spring is coming, the Equinox is March 20th. I can see it carved inside a big heart, Spring loves Rain. But that’s not exactly what it’s like here. Here, Spring loves Thunderstorms. It’s been rainy for a week, sure, but Spring really means fast, rolling supercell thunderstorms that rip across West Texas towards the East. They come barreling out of the high desert full of dust and fury. I have a mix of old fear and new excitement around these storms.


I’ve chased a few storms. I’ve sat behind or adjacent to a few, getting pictures, mainly at night. Nothing real dangerous, I play it safe. Of course, to live is to be dangerous. Anyway, I love night weather, lit up by lightning. Thunderheads, with ecstatic electricity, purple anvil, illuminating the brains of the sky. There is sublimity in these spring storms, terrible, destructive and beautiful. You feel small around them. You get a sense of your real size on this planet. Humbled, majestic as they are.

two separate thoughts

The fear mainly comes from when I was a kid, growing up in the panhandle of Florida. Or maybe it comes from just being alive, I don’t know. After all, even gorillas beat their chests at the thunder. In the panhandle, there are amazing amounts of lightning. Thunder can be scary, but a nearby lightning strike is a whole other level of fear. No fight, all flight. I looked up this area, and lightening, using Google to see if it is as crazy as I remember, and I came across a story on CNN that reported this from a few years back:

Upwards to 5,000 lightning strikes per hour and at one point a record breaking 6,000 strikes within 15 minutes.

That’s a bit above average, the station described it as science fiction like, but it goes to show that in Florida these are lightning storms as much as thunderstorms. I remember one night, driving with mom and dad and my family around Crestview, Florida at night. Out in the country, the pine forests. No rain, just dazzling lightening in the distance, all around us. Heat lightening everywhere, and our car just rolled along full of mouth-dropped observers. What else could we do?

When I was a kid at my grandparents’ house in Pace, Fl. we turned off all electronic devices when a storm came. Sometimes we’d unplug all the devices too. TV’s, lamps, all of it. A few times, we’d all move to the bedrooms and hunker down. Worry thick in the air, at least that’s how I remember it, maybe it only happened a few times, but I’m fairly sure that’s where I learned to be worried about storms. That’s where it feels like it stems from. A heavy rain might cancel a trip to the store. If you heard thunder, you turned on whatever trail you were on, and headed home. Even neighbor kids talked of lightning rods with hush awe. We all new, we were one golf club in a barren field away from becoming a lightning rod.

I’ve witnessed direct strikes in person too. Big balls of bouncing fire and energy moving down a concrete slab at a work site with my father. The strike hit a concrete parking barrier at the opposite of the site. Deafening! Dumbfounded. This is the old fear from my childhood too. Trees split in half. Purple anvil majesty. To this day, when I see the red mass on the radar coming towards my home, my first response is a bit of panic. Then I breathe and come up with a better response than plain fear. Afterall, the generally pass over within 20 to 30 minutes.

Googled Description of Austin Weather: While thunderstorms and heavy rains may occur in all months of the year, most occur during the spring with May bringing the highest frequency of severe weather. Hail is reported around the Central Texas / Austin area an average of 31 days per year and tornadoes are reported on an average of 12 days per year.

The Kerrville Folk Festival practically cured me of that fear of thunderstorms, or transformed it. Well mostly, I still have a healthy fear of storms, of course, but I’ve spent too many nights outdoors, underneath an overhang or in a tent during a spring storm to be as scared as I used to be. I remember most of these times as work weekends, before the festival starts, when you work to ready the grounds for the festival, and camp and it’s a great time. It’s in the spring, so the storms roll through on occasion. Often without warning. When that happens most people make their way to the overhangs of the kitchen or the KerrTree store. This was years ago, and the place has developed a lot. But in those days, we’d sing songs and laugh through the whole thing. But largely, we were outdoors for it all. Every blood curdling strike. Once, with my little son with us, I remember standing on the edge of the crowd, pressed up against the storm and the last bit of overhang. I got soaked. Lightning strikes and thunder-booms reigned around us. Everyone kept singing and talking. This was one of the moments that helped to transform my fear. Seeing the reactions of others gave me room to not just turn away, but turn my back to the storm, and face friends and music instead. Trust in all us. Peaceful in the inevitability of the moment. Here I am. Here we are. Shall we sing?

Now that I’m piecing it together, it was also the courage of my son’s mom that helped me take heart in the face of that storm, and many others. There wasn’t a snow storm, lightening storm, or life storm that daunted her as it did me. I had to ramp up my courage to keep up. These were great lessons. A good service, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time, so it goes. Seeing another’s reactions to the same weather is telling. It told. I listened. I’ve worked on it over the years.

On the Road there will be Rain

It wasn’t that long ago, last summer, that I was in Houston for a visit, and it was nearing time to drive back home, and as always, I checked the weather. I saw different systems that could intersect with my drive. I started formulating a best time to leave, and I thought, if I go now, something might happen, and that old-time dread was there. What if something happens while I’m out on the road? Something might happen. Then it turned completely around, something might happen, but it seemed adventurous. Afterall, who knows, and besides, is my intent really to keep things from happening?

Fear has a purpose. Fear is good. It ain’t everything, and it shouldn’t be the only voice in the conversation. Fear should get a voice, but not the final word. Not even close. Don’t deny it, but don’t give it more reign that it can handle. It can’t handle much. Don’t give fear too much responsibility, it gets scared easy.

Lastly, deer. During a  spring storm, I often think of deer. Where do they go during these hard storms? Nowhere. They are just in it. Foxes in their dens. Ants in their hills. They just weather the storm, outside.

Your life has been a mad gamble.
Make it moreso.
You have lost now a hundred times running.
Roll the dice a hundred and one.
-Rumi: The Big Red Book (Coleman Barks)

Kites, Storms, Rain. Spring. Mom and Dad, grandma and grandad. I forgot what this post was about.

I plan to fly kites out in the country soon. Somewhere around Austin. In Beecaves for sure, around Central Park. Maybe Doeskin Ranch.

Weight Update:

I was at 227 this morning. First time in the 220’s since my early twenties.

Hip Update:
Something changed here recently, a couple days ago. Aligning, or healing, or both, but my gait is better. Much less pain. Something shifted. More on this later, but significant. I’m going further in less pain, and I feel I’m carrying more weight on my legs, instead of my SI joint, if that makes any sense.

Photography Posts:
I intend to start the first topic this week. See how it goes, maybe tackle one topic, or get it started, every week. We’ll see.

Many more projects to come. I plan to walk in groups, and read in groups, and more. Much more to come.

%d bloggers like this: