As I sit here typing I have no idea if the power will be on long enough for me to post ( or even finish ). There is a storm rolling in over doi Suthep , and I’m lying here in bed watching the lightning get closer and closer. I can’t see the lights of the temple on the mountain, which either means the clouds are really low ofrthere is a ferocious curtain of rain headed our way. Of course it could mean both.
There have been many storms of late in Chiang Mai, each one seemingly , larger and more powerful than the last. The summer is giving way to the rainy season. But it’s not giving up without a fight. It will not give way with a whimper it seems, but with a mighty roar.
The time between the ‘flash and bang’ is getting shorter. The thunder sounds angry. It is rolling inexorably towards us, gathering pace and sound and fury as the noise wraps itself around the house like an angry lion circling its helpless prey. At first a gentle purr that grows in its throat to a frightening guttural growl and all the while we are waiting for it to unleash its powerful terrifying roar, knowing it will come, waiting to hear the beast unleash the full power from between his gaping jaws.
And yet for all its bravado and bluster it is not the thunder we need to fear, but it noiseless, dazzling, brilliant companion. As the time between each flash diminishes, it is no longer just silhouetting the mountain range, flattening the panorama, bleaching out the colours and contours of the land. Turning the verdant landscape into a monochrome caricature of itself. No longer is it content to hide behind the mountain, it has breached the hills and is throwing its searing forks indiscriminately towards the land.
A sudden burst of light outside the window makes me gasp, the trees on the land next door glimpsed for a split second, the bright green leaves of the banana trees so rich and vibrant in that moment, clearer and crisper than when seen under the midday sun. And almost before it appeared, it is gone, leaving only a memory. But it’s only when you close your eyes that you see the imprint of the lightning bolt that was, for a brief second, just outside your window. So close to where you are.
There is so much light and so much noise. I am afraid.
And yet I know I’m as safe as I can be. This is not our first storm of the week. On Monday this same scenario was playing out before my eyes and ears , albeit at a more sociable hour. On Monday the family were huddled in the living room waiting for it to pass. But it didn’t pass. As we sat, enthrall end by the raging storm there was a deafening crack and we were thrown into darkness. We had our torches and our touch screens at the ready, but as we came to terms with the loss of power we became aware that our neighbours still had lights on. The streets were still illuminated. It was only us in the dark.
A random bolt of lightning had chosen our house to be its point of contact with the earth. A massive surge of power had ( thank goodness) tripped the main breaker and our shelter had absorbed and dissipated the terrifying amount of energy before we had the wit to realise what had happened. We stayed sheltered in the gloom until the storm had exhausted itself, offering silent prayers of thanks to the structure around us for keeping is safe.
I lie here on this early morning, issuing yet more silent prayers amidst this awesome display of power, both enthralled and afraid by the scale of this storm, watching and waiting for any sign of retreat. I wish I could sleep as soundly as the small person next to me, unknowing and unburdened by the fear that lightning could well strike twice.
Jer Gan Mài.