01 November, 2020

Fascination with storms

 The draining heat and humidity of the afternoon had quickly given way to a worrying coolness. I turned to the west and looked to the sky. The approaching storm clouds had taken a greenish hue. The gathering wind carried in the first drops of rain. "Just great."

I hopped into the car, moved it under cover and turned it off. Getting out of the car, I was greeted by the sudden roar of the rain. From the open roller door of the workshop, the view across the lot was sheets of rain punctuated by flashes of forked lightning. It was coming in quick. Too quick. By the time I made it to the next car, the hail started to fall. "Fantastic. Moving all of the stock around while my car is getting pelted out in the street."

And that's how my Saturday at work was coming to a close. Certainly not the best afternoon. Despite the frantic push to get our stock cars under cover, and trying not to worry about my car, I still enjoyed the vicious beauty of the storm. There's something exciting about stormy weather. I feel a quiet excitement, energized, and focused. It's a heady mix. I'm not alone in how they make me feel. But what is our fascination with storms?

I considered a few theories to tackle the question. Danger, variety, or the promise of life-giving rain. Each had some merit. But they didn't entirely capture what felt magical about storms. So shifted from asking "why," and I started to consider "how." How people react to storms. 

People pay attention to storms and dramatic weather. It seems like a reasonable response. Depending on where they live and the typical weather patterns for their local area, a storm could present something atypical. Something that is atypical in our environment might present a risk. So when familiar patterns are gone, it's natural for people to look up and check out what's going on. What I find particularly interesting is how a situation feels when lots of people nearby start paying attention like this at the same time. Their rhythm and routine becomes broken. They switch off their autopilot behaviour, and their thoughts focus more keenly on the present moment. It's almost like they are sharing a time of collective heightened awareness. There is something unifying in that. And that's nice, so long as we can walk away without consequence.

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