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Taking note: Striking storms

I left the cushions on my patio chairs the night before, forgetting all about the possibility of rain. That is the first thought that enters my head after a tremendous crack of thunder seems to practically shake the foundation of my house early one Saturday morning.

And even though it might already be way too late to rescue those cushions from the rain, I decide it is worth a try.

I don my rain jacket and run outside, surprised to find only a few light drops coming down.

But even in the several seconds it takes me to run to the chairs and grab the cushions, I can feel the rain picking up. Several bolts of lightning illuminate the dark gray sky as the thunder crackles.

By the time I carried the cushions into my enclosed front porch, the rain is coming down hard and the wind is whipping through the trees.

Although it is nearly 7 a.m., the sky is an inky gray, with clouds rapidly covering the little remaining bit of orange sky leftover from the sunrise.

The street lights glow brightly, making it feel more like dusk than dawn.

The rain comes down harder still. I can see it beating down on the pavement and creating little streams on the road and the sidewalk.

Lightning becomes even more frequent, creating a strobe-light effect against the darkened skies as the thunder roars.

I’m captivated and continue watching the storm through my porch windows, even though I was planning to go right inside and make coffee.

But this storm has given be a bigger jolt than that first cup of coffee ever could.

To me, there is nothing like a massive midsummer thunderstorm to wake you up and force you to focus on the present moment.

I’ve long felt this way about thunderstorms and almost any type of interesting weather event or pattern, which we never seem to lack in the Upper Peninsula.

My first dream job – and I’m talking toddler-aged dream job here – was to be a meteorologist.

I begged my parents to get me a “weather set” made of little meteorological instruments, a map, and plush versions of clouds, sun, lightning bolts and the like.

This weather set, sadly, didn’t exist anywhere except in my imagination at that time.

But my parents and relatives didn’t forget, and I would end up receiving various weather-related gifts, such as an incredible little tornado in a bottle toy.

As I grew up, I was enthralled by weather-related school projects and loved shows and documentaries about storms, as well as tales of the tornado that ravaged the forest behind my parents’ house in the decade before I was born.

And while I lost sight of my early meteorological career dreams somewhere in elementary school, I never lost sight of my fascination with weather.

Big blizzards, intense winds and waves, thunderstorms, and even odd clouds in the distance always catch my attention.

I just can’t help but watch and try to learn more about what’s happening.

There is a calming, grounding-type of excitement that comes from counting the seconds between a lightning strike and the ensuing thunder, or watching tree branches sway in the wind.

Watching storms or any type of interesting weather forces me to be present and pay attention to the details of my surroundings.

It always seems to remind me that there is no time like the present.

It reminds me that storm or no storm, taking in the details and appreciating a moment in all its glory can be so freeing.

We can push aside worries about our pasts and futures when we are completely present and paying attention to all that surrounds us.

We can recognize that the present is a gift, it needs no promises or expectations.

And no matter how difficult the past and the future might seem, we have the power to make the present a better moment, sometimes just by watching closely.

Just like a bolt of lightning can illuminate a dark sky, taking the time to pay attention to all the little details can illuminate our lives and wake us up to all the little wonders of the present.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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