One night last week there was a big thunder and lightning storm. This was after a torrential squall in the morning and a tornado warning in the early evening. The weather has been swooping dramatically lately; maybe the restlessness in my spirit these days is just another manifestation of the vibrations I sense out there in the universe. Something feels out of whack right now.
I sat in the window of my bedroom watching the blackness of night crack open, over and over, listening to the rolls of thunder and feeling the house literally shake. And I thought about another night of thunder and lightning. I was with my almost-brother, Ethan, on the Vineyard, in the house our families rented together for several summers. This house (we actually rented a few, in the same general neighborhood) had a separate guest house where the four kids stayed (Hilary, Tyler, Ethan, and me). Ethan and I were sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor of the loft, underneath an enormous skylight.
I love lightning. One summer on the Cape, when I was a camp counselor, a friend and I ran across the front fields in a torrential storm. I remember literally dancing with the lightning, which blazed all around us. What an idiotic and naive thing to do, I realize now. At the time, it was thrilling: I felt as though I was inside the storm.
But last week my thoughts turned firmly, and completely, to that night on the Vineyard. I remembered lying in the dark with Ethan, watching the sky burst into brilliant light right above our faces, whispering to each other. It was Ethan’s birthday, or the end of it, because it was nearing midnight. What I remember most vividly is feeling sad that his birthday was coming to a close, painfully aware of the last moments of his day ticking away. Even all those years ago – I think I must have been 10 – I was anxious about endings and about time’s passage.
This realization made me feel something in my chest, a knot of inchoate feeling. Am I saddened to remember the melancholy that twisted through me even as a young child? Do I feel reassured, resigned, ready to stop struggling against something that is so clearly an essential and indelible part of who I am? Or am I frustrated that still, so many years later, I’m experiencing the same sorrow, am twisting through the same spiral, over and over again?
I don’t know. So I just sat, my ten year old self and my 36 year old self staring through the same eyes in frank wonder as the night sky burst again and again into light outside my window.