Thunder and Chimes of Freedom

I love thunder storms (those that are not too dangerous.) Unusually for Scotland, on Tuesday night / Wednesday morning, I lay cozily wrapped up in bed listening to the rumble, tumble and echoes rolling around the skies. Not claps, or crashes, or booms; and especially not “roaring like a lion”. Anyone who has heard a lion roar, will realize that it is more of grunting leading up to roar sound – which is absolutely nothing like thunder. This thunder was like sound-waves bouncing off clouds, hillsides and other obstacles . The sound was dulled and distorted by distance. Brontide.

The rain was not a downpour or pelting. It was also not drizzle. It was steady and comforting. The kind of rain, that if it were during a weekend, I would cuddle up with my daughters under a warm duvet. Popcorn and chocolate. Hot mugs of tea. Watching movies – land of the Dinosaurs; then Disney princesses (Ariel, Pocahontas, Yasmin); then High School musical (Aarghhhhhh), Lindsay Lohan and Hannah Montana; Glee (I must admit to being a fan) and then Step up dancing. All these (videos and then DVD – before streaming etc.) watched many times over and over and over!

I lay there listening, content (for a few minutes at least), and my mind drifted towards memories of past thunder storms I had witnessed. In Africa the storms normally mushroom in the late afternoon, when the heat has worn you down and the earth shimmers into mirages. I can always feel the escalation of the storm brew as a tension in my upper body and a growing headache. But when the storm breaks I am instantly pain free, refreshed, wallowing in that amazing smell that erupts from the red soil telling you that I am happy – I am nourished – now I can grow. I believe there is a word for this – petrichor.

I found some more wonderful words pertaining to thunder

Definitely me!!
Also me!!

Each Cumulonimbus cloud creates its own storm that lashes down rain in a path. It is even possible to see the edge of the rain. I remember running into the rain, through it and out into the sun on the other side (as a child in Zambia).

Another time I was Luangwa Valley (my most favourite place in the world) sitting on the bank of the river in hot sunshine. We were glued to the sight of black clouds with shards of electric energy striking furiously at the ground. The thunder was frequent and the sound intense. It was better than any firework display that I have seen. It was on the other side of the river maybe 1 km away. As kids say – “How cool is that!”

Luangwa River, Zambia

Much later on, in South Africa, was another memorable storm. The girls and I had been camping up the coast, but there had been so much rain that turned everything into mud – we had to take our shoes off to walk through the mud to the toilet. After a few days of this we gave up, packed up and headed for home in my little red car which even had things packed into the spare wheel. It was eerie and very very still. Oppressively silent – no birds or insects. The air felt thick, like walking through butternut squash soup. It was extremely weird and unpleasant. I sat down outside and observed in the distance a wall of black cloud. Then flashes of gold. Then crashes of thunder. The time difference between the two was not much, but it kept on getting less and less. By this time I started to realise how quickly the storm was moving. A few stray clouds that had remained in front of the mass sped by above so quickly I could hardly register it. A strange sound – hard to describe as it was the sort of sound you would not have noticed had the world not been so silent.

Then – chaos, the wind hit, no slammed, thumped, hurled me off my chair, threw the doors shut – or against the wall. I swear the whole house rattled. There was suddenly so much air that it was too much to breathe. And noisy – a wind noise – a whirl wind noise – an ominous noise.

It felt like ages, but was probably only a couple of minutes. Then we were covered by the cloud mass, rain and lightning. But this seemed calm and quiet after the previous pandemonium. So I carried on sitting outside (under shelter) and enjoyed the rest of the performance. And then we had a lovely braai.

For fun:

Rain – Imvula (Xhosa): Mvula (Nyanga – Zambian): reen (Afrikaans): Regen (German); uisge (Scots Celtic)

Thunder – indudumo (Xhosa): bingu (Nyanga): donderweer (Afrikaans): Donner (German): tairneanach (Scots Celtic)

Whilst thinking about thunder, I came across the following song by Bob Dylan:

Chimes Of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden as the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the poet an the painter far behind his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
For the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a clouds’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmfull, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Isn’t that absolutely wonderful. I think that it is extremely relevant to today’s mess of a world. I think I shall come back to look at this in more detail.

But I think that is enough of thundering for now!

One thought on “Thunder and Chimes of Freedom”

  1. This brought back so many amazing memories. There is nothing that compares to a storm in Africa. When you are out in the bush and the rain musters all these incredibly rich earthy smells. The sound of the rain bullets smacking the leaves of the different trees. Its a whole chorus that booms proudly and yet is followed by such a soothing silence. As if everything is making sure the storm is over before emerging again. The smell is really what grabs the memory. It’s as if mother nature put all her creations in a mixing bowl, pour some water in and stirred. The combination of it all is rejuvenating.

    I especially enjoyed the throwback to us watching movies and you got it spot on with the order of movies we would constantly demand. I am sure our screeching to high school music was louder than any thunder outside haha.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s