It is an Armageddon of storms. The local weather site records two hundred strikes of lightning per minute at its height. At first long jagged snake strikes, then two house-shaking claps of thunder and sheet lightning that seems to surround my house. I worry about my two tall Edwardian palms—the highest things anywhere near me. Just yesterday I called my tree guy to tell him I think they are dying. The palm beetle has made its sinister way into our area and since I’ve just had all my palms trimmed, it has crossed my mind that perhaps the tree cutters brought them with them on tools or clothing. It was a few days after they left that huge chunks started to fall off of the trunks and the fronds, green a few days ago, started to turn yellow.
Just a half hour ago, before the wind and the first claps of thunder and stabs of lightning and initial raindrops had hit, I had wondered when the next big chunk of tree would fall. At that exact instant, I heard a loud slapping bang as another chunk fell. As though in concert, the first tympani of thunder sounded, the wind came up and I heard the first spatters of rain against my skylight high above me on the dome of my living room.
Then my whole word was suffused by light and the crack and long roll of thunder as one peal of thunder ran into the next in one long colossal drum roll. The rain pelted down and a high thin wail of wind seemed to whistle around something high up on my house. All rounded corners, there is little sharpness to catch the wind. It is the first time in the 17 years I’ve lived here that I’ve heard this keening banshee whine that I thought I’d left behind me in Wyoming thirty-seven years ago. It was the Mariah of winds, a weather horror story that didn’t fit in here in Mexico, and as though it knew it, after two spine-chilling entwining moaning shrieks, it disappeared.
The night, black and starless, lit up repeatedly, as bright as daylight, like giant flashbulbs going off. The two nearly denuded Edwardian palms stood out starkly against the white sky. “Take a picture,” my Skype friend demanded, and suddenly, my formerly lost camera appeared as if by magic in front of me. Thirty-one times, I tried in vain to capture the lit-up sky. Thirty-one times, I caught only the neighbor’s porch light against a pitch-black sky. Then, on my thirty-second attempt, when the sky flashed white and then black again, the whiteness remained frozen on my camera screen. I had caught it!
An hour after the first clap of thunder, the storm has abated. My house forms some demarcation line as I can hear rain still steadily falling on the front terrace, whereas there is no rain at all on the back terrace or yard. The thunder has stopped. The lightning has been clicked off. Once again I can hear the whir of my tiny desk fan. The dogs lie curled in their beds, as unperturbed as they were even in the height of the storm. They are Mexican street dogs, accustomed to fireworks and the celebratory firing of guns into the air, to loud weekend parties in the houses across the street that stretch into the morning hours, to loud banda music and the air brakes of big trucks carrying gravel or boulders up and down the mountain. Only the sound of the clink of the cat dishes on the stone terrace as I feed them half a house a way could stir them from their beds. The cats are no doubt in an entwined pile in their large and cushy bed in the garage. All things around me: the storm, the cats and the dogs, have put themselves to bed and it is my turn to cease my consideration of the Armageddon that once again has threatened and then passed us by. All’s right with the night for now and that is as much assurance as we are likely to get in this world––a lullaby of sorts telling us its time to end the adventure for today and to sleep.
One second it is night and the next it is day!