One evening a few years ago, Rob and I took our youngest son who was home during a uni break to the beach at Cosy Corner for a picnic dinner. As the sun set, storm clouds suddenly appeared on the horizon. We quickly packed up, but the rain was already falling as we clambered up the beach to the car, carrying fold-up chairs, an esky, and uneaten chocolate bars. Lightning flashed in the distance and thunder rolled as we slammed the doors and settled into safety.
It was still early evening, so considering that our leisurely picnic had been interrupted by an electrical storm we decided to get closer to it, rather than just go home. We chased it across the landscape, sometimes going east, sometimes west, or north, but never getting close enough to experience the full glory of the lightning. There was always a hill or a giant cloud partly hiding it from view, or we were facing the wrong direction when we parked the car to watch it.
Then the son who was with us phoned another son in Perth, who had the Bureau of Meteorology site on his phone, so he gave us directions to the eye of the storm, from 400 km away.
‘It’s moving fast from the north,’ he said excitedly, obviously watching the storm symbol on his screen. ‘It’s coming towards you!’
Rob put his foot on the accelerator, and we raced along roads that should’ve taken us closer to it. Some of them were dead ends, so we had to turn around. I wound down my window a little and counted the seconds between the sounds of thunder and the flash of lightning, then divided it by 5, to give me how many miles away it was. Then I did a simple calculation in my head to convert that figure to kilometres by multiplying it by 80 and dividing that result by 50. This merely added to the confusion in the car.
Sometimes the storm was in front of us, then behind us. It couldn’t make up its mind about what it wanted to do.
We gave up and went home.
We sat, a little disconsolately, in the lounge while the storm continued, eating chocolate that was supposed to have been consumed at the beach while waves gently lapped at our ankles and tickled our toes. Then our son stood up and opened the curtains to reveal that we had front-seat views of the storm in our own home. We didn’t need to chase it. It was here, right where we were. We sat mesmerized as thunder shook the windows and the sky danced with blazes of jagged light that were so bright they hurt our eyes.
As we go through life, we often think that what we want is somewhere else, when it’s already right where we are.
We think we need to go to a national park to spend time in nature when all we have to do is step outside our own back door, and there we are surrounded by it. A stretch of grass, a tree, an early hibiscus flower. Even tiny weeds with miniature flowers growing between pavement cracks are a magnificent show of nature.
We assume we need to go out to dinner with friends to have a good time when all we have to do is light a candle at the kitchen table, sit with someone we see all the time, and ask, ‘What have you been thinking lately?’ while we tuck into mushrooms on toast.
It’s easy to think that what we want in life is somewhere else when it’s right here where we are.
It’s time to stop chasing life.
Just open the curtains.
Just open your eyes.
With love, Marlane