It has been so long since I saw rain I have almost forgotten what it's like. My cats, for example, had never experienced rain, much less thunder and lightning, before last night, so understandably they were pretty freaked out. Timido is still under the couch as of right now, which makes it close to 24 hours. I've moved his food within smelling distance and hope that will coax him out ... and I am not thinking about whether he has needed a litter box yet. (Denial is a wonderful thing.)
It was good to feel cool wet air --- air that smells like rain and not humidity, because they are nothing alike to smell --- and I loved that a chill breeze had blown up for me to enjoy. There was the ever-so-soft pattering sound of rain --- scattered and patchy, of course, and it stopped quickly as would be expected for semidesert California. And then the lightning flashes began.
Began, but no sooner had I seen the huge flash but there was a sound like an echoing explosion. The cats were astounded; even I was frightened. As a kid I had taken a bus tour of the Grand Canyon rim with my family and lightning struck a tree about 20 feet from us. It was so cool: at that distance, the entire sky and all the air around you lights up a ghastly purple, there's a more intense spike of purple jagging down from the clouds and then, with a boom!, suddenly a huge gnarled cottonwood tree near you is completely ablaze. One thing I miss about the West (as opposed to the California West) is the constant thunder and lightning, and random rainstorms that last about a half hour every afternoon at 4. And "sunstorms," when one side of the street is being rained and lightninged-on but the other side is dry and cloudless and sunny. Trippy!
So I thought I knew from thunderstorms. But these lightning strikes scared me! Maybe I'm in a canyon of buildings and it echoes a lot, I thought. Then I heard sirens. Then I heard about 20 times the sirens, and they weren't stopping but getting ever closer. And then I smelled, over the rain, a charred, dirty burning that you get when you're burning something way bigger than a campfire. Or, I thought, the lightning really did hit something, very close. Ugh, there certainly have been a lot of fires lately ---- if the town isn't going up in flames it's my street.
So I went outside to the "balcony" ---- ie the little pathway all our front doors open out on ---- and saw a neighbor who is never around. "It's close; something around here got hit. I smell rubber burning." He peered over the railing and lit a cigarette.
"Wow. Crazy. That must be 10, 12 sirens. Did it hit the hospital or what?"
Just like last time I went and wandered, looking for signs I'd need to pack up my cats and evacuate. The rain was barely a mist now, but chilly. I couldn't see any signs that it was burning down our street so I went back inside and hoped that the rain or perhaps firefighters would put it out, or at least warn me somehow before my dry-as-tinder old apartment complex was in danger.
(I found out today that it hit an electrical transformer and started a fire ---- and yes it was very very close, so my cats and I feel slightly justified in our bestartlement. --- ps that is now officially a word.)
Except for the whole terrified-cat-permanently-under-the-couch thing, I'd love for us to see more thunderstorms, or heck, at least a little rain since we're in a drought even by California standards. But then I'd be confronted with the problem of what to wear when teaching, like today ---- how do you dress for cloudy, 88 degree weather with high humidity and a 20% chance of more thunderstorms?
I went with go-go boots and a miniskirt. Maybe there's something to that whole undergrad fashion of Uggs and daisy duke shorts after all. Nah, I'd never admit it.
Update: I went out to dinner and see people for drinks last night and when I came back the cat was out from under the sofa and demanding to be fed. So all is well. At least, as long as I don't think about what might be under the couch.