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Heat Lightning

Heat Lightning

by Jocelyn Whitney


Oklahomans need at least two porches: one with deep shelter to watch the storms roll through, spraying you like the ocean; the second is the open patio, the porch, the deck to get that unobstructed view of the sky. Particularly the night sky. Last night lightning in the north held me transfixed. Fifty years ago six kids sat on the concrete steps with dad, watching the heat lightning in distant thunderheads. Last night the clouds were scrambled, fuzzy and as ill-defined as memories. Fifty years ago though, we awed at the pristine formation, distinct pillows of a mountainous Zeus who stopped at lighting the sky. You don’t hear anything if it’s just heat lightning. Last night the adult watched and finally listened to the storm, waiting and straining to hear the distant rage of the atmosphere. Fifty years ago we went in early, to the stillness of bedtime stories, those comforting fictions that heat lightning lacks thunder and that mom was gone to a retreat. She had retreated but not in the holy sense we believed. Like those clouds in the distance, the past becomes fuzzy, bolts mysteriously, randomly, illuminating both truths and fictions. That night the silent storm was needed to allay our fears. We watched in wonder, safely innocent while she rested her spirit for a time, distant, silent to us in her despair.

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