Nature is in a dramatic mood lately!
Can’t say that I blame her. Sometimes you just have to let those feelings out.
Here’s one of several minute-long videos I took of a lightning and thunder storm that hovered overhead for quite a while last night. It started just before sunset and featured both sheet and bolt lightning. You can hear the birds going about their business of singing and settling in for the night. You can also hear a burbling stream that flows nearby; it sounds like rain, but the rain and hail – a real gully-washer – didn’t arrive until several minutes later, towards the end of the light show. I love standing outside watching these storms light up the sky, although they’re not without their dangers.
This morning I learned that a bolt of lightning from last night’s storm struck a tree near a friend’s home about ten miles north, igniting it. Several neighbors went out in the dark and doused the fire. That reminded me how in October 2008 I was watching a similar storm. Watching through a window, I was nearly blinded by a brilliant flash of lightning that hit just down slope from my house, followed immediately by the loudest crash of thunder I hope I ever experience. Crazy scary and cool at the same time. It was already dark, so I couldn’t see where the bolt hit, but it was so close I was sure I’d find a divot in my field the next day.
I went to bed, only to hear fire truck sirens in the distance 45 minutes later. That bolt of lightning had struck a tall pine tree and glanced of it to the corner of a house that had just sold and closed that morning (and so was vacant). It took a while for the flames to grow enough that a neighbor saw them and called in the fire. I watched the flames engulf the house, bright orange and terrifying against the night sky. The house burned to the ground despite a downpour of rain and the efforts of our small rural fire department, the firefighters helpless to do anything but make sure it didn’t spread to neighboring properties.
A few years later, the same scene played out, another house in my subdivision burning after a lightning strike.
And, of course, in summer these storms ignite forest wildfires, some small, some devastating. In an effort to prevent future devastation, the Forest Service does selective burning – prescribed burns – of the forest undergrowth to reduce the fuels that feed wildfires. Prescribed burns leave blackened trees trunks and branches behind.
Knowing firsthand the damage lightning can cause, I watch these displays with both fascination and a large amount of trepidation. I can’t control where lightning strikes, so I witness the power of nature with awe and hope for the best.
This morning, the birds were singing their usual songs, ushering in the dawn. It was calm, the sky was mostly blue, last night’s storm long gone. A layer of fog hugged the valley. The dogs and I went for a hike in the forest, just above the fog. I wanted to search for wildflowers, the boys wanted to follow their noses.
We all found what we wanted.
Some wildflower photos…
The boys and I spent 90 wonderful minutes hiking through the forest this morning. At one point I decided to follow a fire break (a cut in the ground, removing vegetation, made by wildland firefighting crews to help prevent a fire from moving across a landscape) made last year that we’ve turned into a private trail. It goes straight up a steep slope that was quite muddy today, arriving at an open hillside perfect for wildflowers. Private, remote, and quiet, it wasn’t part of my original plan. A reminder that following whims and noses can be unexpectedly rewarding, as most of these photos were taken on that hillside.
[An aside: My dogs frequently photobomb my wildflower photos. I’ve collected several and will use them create a dog photobombing post soon.]
Later in the day, Nature reminded me why I’m a morning person. The weather was perfect for our forest outing, but by noon another storm moved in. Here’s the sound of thunder rolling through our valley around 2 pm, accompanied by a heavy rain, the most thrilling rumble toward the end…
I’ve often said that one of the reasons I love living here is the distinct seasons. These storms – the lightning and thunder, the downpours of rain and hail, quickly followed by clear skies – are another reason.
Featured image: sunflowers (arrowleaf balsomroot) near the beautiful bark of a Ponderosa pine tree trunk.