What comes with the darkness

Weather reports indicated storms again tonight.  April in Texas.  It seems the threat of severe weather hangs constantly over our heads, a dangling carrot of tumultuous wrath that tempts Mother Nature’s worst to visit us time and again.  At least spring feels a tad normal this year, what with the tempests we’ve already had and those yet to come.

At approximately 7:00 PM I stepped out and faced east.  The sun already hidden behind thick layers of cloud to the west, I looked into the darkest part of the sky and found it illuminated only by shadows of azure played against the heavy wet cotton billowing overhead, a roiling beauty that hid danger behind artwork.  Sneaky…

Billowing azure clouds preceding a thunderstorm (20080417_03515)

I could feel the storm long before it arrived.  The air was heavy, damp, pressing in from all sides, and the smell of rain mixed with an electrical tinge that floated on every gust.  Leaves blew by me in small tornadoes and straight races.  Every bird who shares this place with me disappeared already.

After fetching a beer from the kitchen as I passed through the house, I stepped out the front door and circled around the drive to the nearest parking lot that faces west.  There I looked the monster dead in the eye.  Where sunset should have been I saw only clouds, only whispers of a star smothered behind a disturbance that overturned the atmosphere as it made its way toward me.  If I could have guaranteed my own safety, it would have been wonderful to walk down to White Rock Lake and watch the beast crawl across the land.

An approaching storm from the west hides the setting sun (20080417_03522)

A few photos captured in waning light and I felt I need only wait to see what came with the darkness.  It felt a bit like Dave Lloyd feels, like what he and his visitors experience when they finally arrive.  I felt a chill for a moment as I watched the western horizon, a chill at how seeing this blackness stalking me from the west felt a bit like seeing Dreamdarkers unfold on a movie screen—one as large as the sky.  Perhaps some of the images will help me write that mental movie with more clarity.

Back inside I visited with The Kids a bit.  Storms don’t really bother them unless they reach the severity of the one that recently blew in some of our windows and broke some of the patio doors.  That got their attention.  Despite my love of storms, I hoped this one would not be quite so invasive.

The clock said it was 7:12 PM CDT.

Perhaps 40 minutes later I could hear its breathing, its howling, its throaty growl that rumbled in fits and starts, and I could see the flash of its teeth with each snarl, flashes that filled the sky with abrupt contrasts.  Like strobe lights in a dance club, the world froze within each luminescent burst.

Again I made my way out to the parking lot.

Lightning dancing amongst the storm clouds overhead (20080417_03579)

Although it had not started raining yet, I found myself dodging various projectiles, from leaves to small limbs and twigs.  You’re just clearing your throat, aren’t you? I thought.

Azures and indigos had given way to a blackness so deep that it swallowed everything.  What brightness came from surrounding lights quickly vanished into the night, a night controlled by a monster of epic proportions.  Unlike Dave Lloyd’s experience, this menace didn’t come with the storm; it was the storm.

Exposed under a dance of lightning within all levels of the clouds, I felt a bit foolhardy, a bit like a storm chaser who forgets their place in the scheme of things and boldly challenges nature to stop them from getting that one good photo, that one memorable view.

Lightning moving through black clouds (20080417_03614)

I wondered how much this sable brute would throw at me before lurching from behind its murky cover to sweep me up and throw me down, to prove its superiority and to punish my hubris.  Each snarl grew nearer, each growl louder and longer.  I felt it staring at me, challenging me to back down before it leaped at me with claws splayed and teeth bared.

Several times the wind pushed me aside and several times debris threatened to wound me or the camera.  I backed up slowly, each step unsure yet certain, and all the while I felt it closing in on me, the storm clouds lowering, bringing the lightning closer, blowing the wind harder, laying the monster’s feet right on the ground.

The preceding outflow from a thunderstorm backlit by lightning above it (20080417_03730)

The outflow had arrived, the shovel at the front of the storm that flipped the atmosphere ahead of the tempest’s rage.  The devil wore it like a hood that cloaked its face until we stood nose to nose.

The heart of the beast would soon follow.

I marveled at how the dance of light between cloud layers defined what came and went—and what had yet to arrive.

The ceiling lifted and opened the door.  What came out would pound the world into submission.

In that brief moment before I turned and hurried back inside, its eyes set upon me, its ravenous breath blew me around, its spiteful rains crashed to the earth with a roar.

One final snarl told me I had overstayed my welcome.

Lightning filling the night sky (20080423_04530)

[taken directly from my off-line journal from the night of April 17; the first five photos are from that night and the last photo is from the night of April 23]

2 thoughts on “What comes with the darkness”

  1. Thanks for the compliment!

    Truth in advertising: These were taken without filters or additional lenses save the standard camera components. I wanted to play with its ability to take pictures in the dark.

    And a personal observation for those trying to capture an image of lightning: It ain’t easy. Period.

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