Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fickle Sky

The rumble of thunder wakens me early in the morning. Eyes blink open at the same moment a sweep of rain slaps against window glass, and a second later wind beats the palm trees into an angry clatter. Sitting up, I get a wide angle view through an unshuttered window that offers a view of sky, ocean and sand melting together, a view severely limited by the wet turmoil of water and cloud.

I stand at the window wondering about this stormy violence, trying to gauge a path or direction it might follow. In this climate weather is fast moving, here in a moment and blown away after a few agitated minutes. This time the storm has found a comfortable center, a place to stop and pound itself against land and water, flinging defiance at the smug assurances of local weathermen who smile and promise sunny beaches.

Thirty minutes pass before the wind and rain blow themselves out and off to a farther stretch of beach. It’s enough to fool me. I am unwilling to easily give up my routine walk and so hurry out to the soggy sand and point my feet south. From there the view is clearer, stretching away north and south. Apart from myself, not another person is in sight for miles in either direction. A half mile offshore isolated walls of rain stretch from dark clouds to a darker ocean, but rays of light have found a way through the gloom to etch portions of sky and cloud with silver lining. There is no rain now and I settle into an unthinking pace across sand that is smooth but spongy.

From behind, or far ahead—I can’t tell—a soft growl of thunder catches me off guard and eyes swivel in each direction looking for the flicker of lightning. Few want to be on a beach in a lightning storm, and I take comfort in the absence of any ominous winks or flares. Walking is still easy and seemingly safe, so I ignore a second roll of thunder and the light sprinkle of almost-rain that begins spotting my T-shirt.

A mile from home the light sprinkle has a sudden personality change, and instantly, magically becomes a torrential wall of water that drenches me in the blink of an eye. The rain pounds craters in the sand all around me and poor visibility takes away everything but the fifteen or twenty feet of space I stumble through. Still no lightning, but there’s little room for comfort in this predicament. And now I have the good sense to turn back toward home.

Water sloshes in my shoes, trunks and T-shirt like a second skin plastered tight against my body, and I am worried now the water is going to wreck the iPhone in my pocket. Phone be damned, it’s the loss of pedometer, camera and half a dozen other functions that unsettles me more.

Some distance ahead I vaguely make out the palm trees that landmark home. The rain is no longer pelting, less a curtain than ordinary hard rain. I notice that the birds, the sanderlings and the willets are untroubled by this weather and without pause go about their business of darting through the receding surf, eye out for a sand hopper or small pigfish. Sky once more morphs into puffs and swirls of clouds doing a light and dark waltz. The light wins out and then with the flick of a switch the rain stops. I am fifty feet from home.

I climb the stairs relieved to have something more substantial than sand under my feet. For a minute I stand and stare out at the settling face of ocean and beach. Looks like it might be a beautiful day.


  1. Good writing; evocative. The old editor in me did see a couple of things worth questioning; one: "...portions of sky and cloud with silver lining." I would suggest another word choice than "silver lining," one which would not recall that tired phrase. But well done. I was there on the beach being pelted with rain.

  2. Great writing Bill. But I always love your beach pics. Probably because I have been there and enjoy seeing it again. i always download them to my phone and use them as screensavers.

  3. I especially enjoyed reading this detailed and "well painted" picture of your thunderous walk along the beach. Having been there during once or more such storms it brings back memories......ones that can become reality soon since I will be returning from North Carolina toward the end of October.



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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America