Monday, August 8, 2022

Kelowna Thunderstorm

Global News photo

Gun metal lake and gun metal bowl
of lowering, ominous sky, I swam 
on the edge of storm
that summer afternoon, back when
adults didn't worry much about
kid safety - sink or swim.

Alone in the lake, alone in my
twelve years of living, the scent
of danger near and familiar,
I floated my log on the waves,
gazed up at the sky so changed
from its normal friendly blue.
Thunder rumbled and roared
above my head
like the sky was about to fall.
I didn't know that water
attracts lightning. No one gave me
any guidelines on how to survive
in this world. It took me some years
and my own children's lives to learn
just how vulnerable to danger
children are,
how much they're in need
of protection.

There was a metallic smell in the air
I could almost taste. Just before
the lightning flashed,
some instinct for self-preservation
sent me back to my grandmother's cottage
where we'd sit in the back room,
as on so many summer afternoons
of my childhood,
listening to the thunderstorms
she loved so much.
I loved them, too,
once I was safe inside.

All my life, when I smell that
particular smell in the air,
listen for its roll and clap,
thunder takes me back
to summer afternoons
with my Grandma,
listening to the sky
sing in rumbling voice,
in that small cottage
that offered me
the only safety that,
back then,
I knew.

for earthweal: LIGHTNING FALLS. Right now, in the Okanagan, several serious wildfires are burning, threatening towns and reservations. People are being evacuated, or put on alert. Weather experts say all the fires burning throughout the province were sparked by lightning strikes.

Keremeos Creek wildfire
B.C. Wildfire photo


  1. I didn't know that water attracts lightning until I read this, Sherry, thank you! The adults charged with looking after us are not always our best protectors. Just as we are not the best protectors of our mother earth. I hope you get some rain and that the fires are put out soon.

  2. If we had grown up in a tribe we would have learned all the mythic and practical background on storms -- what they give, what they can take. But we learn the hard way if ever. Love the child's immersion here beneath the gathering storm, protection in a grandmother's cottage & how that stays with a person through life.

  3. I remember my parents calling us in when it started thundering, although they never explained why. Our childhood memories are so intertwined with the natural world--I wonder if it's so for our children's generation. I hope so--it's our only hope.

  4. Wonderful tribute to your grandmother. I loved how the poem progressed from something raw and visceral to something heartfelt, warm and poignant.

  5. My grandmother could tell a storm was coming when the sun was still shining. She was struck my lightning once and understood it's wrath. As a kid, I would
    have to sit in her house and she would turn everything off. She would explain
    the power of the heavens.

  6. I can so relate to this, Sherry. I sometimes wonder how we survived the indifference of adults who set us loose on the world without a word of warning, to roam or to run directly into danger, on our own from dawn to dark. My grandmother, too, was the only one who knew what nurturing was, and your last stanza, "listening to the sky
    sing in rumbling voice," gives so fully the sense of peace and safety and love that lived in that small house. Beautiful, moody and full of memories.

  7. love your narrative here sherry, very well written. i too grew up in the real world (we are perhaps the last american generation to do so) summers as a kid, i was out the door every morning and home by the time the streetlights came on, seemed like that was the only rule. how do children today learn who they really are, or what the world really is with their wings constantly clipped, children today grow up wearing strait jackets, safety helmets and tracking devises. true, the world is more dangerous today (the world of man-made is nobody's friend) and yes, everybody wants to protect their young, but i still miss the real world

  8. "Safety" can get out of hand but I think "Get out of the water before a thunderstorm breaks, if you can" was a good rule.

  9. You are writing such sensitive poems lately, and I love them. The last stanza is so touching, I feel how safe you felt with your grandma. What a wonderful presence in your life.


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