Thunderstorms, Evening, Porches

I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania where summers were hot and muggy. When a thunderstorm rolled in I loved to sit on the porch swing watching sheets of rain pour down off the roof, with the lilacs 15 feet away becoming a mere shadow of themselves through the water.

A fine mist reached the back of my neck as the downspout by the house tried—and failed—to keep up with the downpour. The chains of the porch swing creaked as I would swing in and out of that mist at the edge of the porch, playing turkey with getting either really wet or just a little wet. The lampshade behind the screen door of the house glowed warm and golden and safe. The thunder and lightning were energizing, and the cool air that followed a thrill after the heat of July.

The porch a haven.

I still love a thunderstorm, and this has been a hot summer here in central Vermont—a perfect incubator for many thunderstorms over the last few weeks.

As I write the sky is dark, the white pines and weeping willow branches are whipping about in the wind and the first big drops are starting to polka dot the car. Steam is rising up from the pea stones and the air is 10 degrees cooler than it was 10 minutes ago.

I don’t have a photograph of that screened door on my childhood porch, with the glowing lampshade on a stormy afternoon. The image still lives quite potently in my head, and I’m glad for that.

The photographs that most capture the essence of those memories from 30 years ago are those of Joel Meyerowitz from his 1979 book Cape Light. My mother bought the book in the early 80s and I pored over its pages then. Later I found my own copy which I like to hunt our bookshelves for this time of year. I show my favorite pages here, including the fantastic image of a lightning strike parallel to a porchpost—lamp glowing just inside the door, so similar to my memory.

All photography © Joel Meyerowitz, Cape Light, 1979. There is a new, expanded edition available. Buy a copy of Cape Light here or here.

Joel sells some merchandise from his own site, including some prints here.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. katemgeorge
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 09:36:02

    I grew up partially in California, partially in Vancouver, BC. I don’t remember many electric storms in Vancouver, but in Auburn we would sleep on the screened in porch with lightning flashing all around us.

    Now I am sleeping on the porch here in Vermont – I give up my room to relatives for the summer – and I love the sound of the rain and the crash of the lightning. Yesterday I was marveling at the sounds of singing birds in the midst of the downpour. In fact we must have been on the same wave length because next week a post about the sounds and smells of the storm will appear on my blog! I wrote it yesterday!

    Thanks for sharing your memories.

    Reply

  2. Lori O.
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 10:13:26

    You have a beautiful way with words, Sue.

    Reply

  3. Susan
    Feb 15, 2013 @ 23:27:12

    Hi,

    I’m on the other side of the word – Australia – so it’s summer here, and we’ve had a few storms lately. I live on a river, and during storms I really enjoy sitting undercover on my back deck, watching the rain and the wind bouncing off the river, seeing the lightning and listening and generally taking in the atmosphere.

    Having grown up with a mum who was terrifed if storms, I have no idea why I’m not the same. During storms, my mum would open all the windows, cover the mirrors with sheets, and unplug the electrical devices. I recall us sitting huddled together wearing a rubber gum boot each during a particularly bad storm.

    Thanks for an enjoyable read, and bringing back some memories for me.

    All the best,
    Susan

    Reply

    • Sue Schlabach 129twigandvine
      Feb 18, 2013 @ 10:02:38

      Thanks Susan! I already look forward to summer storms. For now, it’s snow and howling wind on this side of the world. I’m glad you found the post and thanks for sharing your story with me—and your vivid description of the river view from your house. Lovely!!
      Sue

      Reply

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