Life on the mountain . . .

I have an affinity for life in high places, but that choice has some challenges. I’ve just spent the last 30 hours without electricity. A torrential rain storm brought thunder and lightning barreling through Central Pennsylvania, and the sudden natural fury took down trees, roofs, branches, and power lines. It also took out my utilities. The utility company took two days to repair all the disconnections. I found the darkness unsettling…

Earlier in the winter, I spent 3 days trapped inside the house, because the steps to the road, and my Subaru were completely iced over…8 inches of solid ice turned the stairs into an ice slide, and the car into an igloo. Not even the neighbor’s dog, Tucker, could climb those stairs. He’d get up one or two, then his legs would collapse on the ice, and he’d slide back down, only to try again, until his butt got so sore and cold he decided to stop trying.

It took me 3 days, two neighbors’ help, and AAA to get free enough to go to work. On top of that, the boiler died, and the repair folks could not fix it, so I went for two weeks without heat. Nature is intractibly disagreeable in high places.

Low places aren’t much calmer. As a kid, growing up along the eastern seashore, I learned to love storms. We had them all summer–sun showers, thunderstorms, sea squalls, tropical storms, and hurricanes–natural theatre, larger than everyday terrors, more majestic, and powerful. We would run barefoot through the summer showers with a rain slicker, but no shoes, and play. During hurricanes, we would wait until a pink haze and stillness settled over the island then venture out, in the hurricane’s eye, to see what havoc nature had unleashed on the boats moored along the inland waterways, and the summer cottages. Nature always rearranged the landscape and it was thrilling to discover what had been upended by her ravages.

One year, into high school, we had a serious hurricane. The entire coastline from Cape May north flooded–the bay met the ocean and everything in between was pretty much under water. My father would not let us evacuate. “It’s not going to come into the house” he said, until the water began to seep in under the door. Then we put things up on the tables, and finally, he just put a step ladder up to the attic entrance and we all went up into the attic–no blankets, coats, food, water or anything else to keep us warm and dry. Two of my little sisters had asthma, and they suffered badly through that storm.

All 11 of us were up there for two days before the waters went down far enough from the ceiling for us to get out of the house. Then we evacuated, with the help of the police, to the local high school, which was on high ground. When we finally got back into the house, my father would not sign up for Red Cross help to clean up and restore the rugs, walls, etc that needed tearing out. So my mother just started cooking and we began the long job of getting rid of all the mud, water, dirt, etc. That was the first time I ever had ptomaine poisoning…

During graduate school, when I worked in Philadelphia, I lived in a high rise apartment, on the 23rd floor. That building also had an attraction for lightning. Twice, while I was there, lightning danced through the windows all the way across the living room. Once it fried the mother board on my printer and computer.

Here on the mountain, lightning dances around my house at will. I’m careful not to venture out while nature is firing off her fiery lightning bolts. I stay inside and listen and watch. I love the sound and smell of rain and wet earth, and the crack of thunder, right before lightning flashes. Something inside my own spirit really loves the show…

I too give witness to the greatness of GOD, our Lord, high above all other gods.
He does just as he pleases– however, wherever, whenever. He makes the weather–clouds and thunder, lightning and rain, wind pouring out of the north. (Psalm 135:5-7)

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