The first two days we were in Barcelona, the city was sticky-hot and swamp-humid. On the third night, toward morning, the humidity broke with a wild thunderstorm. We woke up as the first throaty growls rolled across the hotel courtyard; I rolled out of bed and crept to the window, pulling aside the curtain just in time to see a single shock of lightning split the sky over the ocean. I gasped in awe, prompting a sleep-marbled mumble from the bed: “Is everything okay?”
I stood naked by the window, peeking through the heavy curtains, thinking of all the thunderstorms before–all the times I’d stood in strange rooms, in faraway places, watching the wet sky pulse with electricity.
The time my family got caught in a sudden downpour in Shenandoah National Park, and ran back to the cabin, stuffing our skin-soaked clothes into the dryer and wrapping our hands around mugs of hot chocolate and tea while the thunder rumbled through the trees outside.
The summer I spent as a teenage volunteer in Nicaragua, in a tiny half-rural barrio deep in a volcano-ringed valley, walking home from an everyday dinner of rice and beans, fried plantains and avocado halves, as tiny blue-white sparks flickered in the distant hills and knots of slate-gray clouds gathered on the horizon.
The night I stood on the porch of a schoolteacher’s house in a small town in Panama, after a meal of fried hot dogs and boiled yuca–two of my least favorite foods–watching a raging, alarmingly close electrical storm carve white-hot streaks in the sky right over my head.
I remembered those storms, and the places, and the experience of waiting for the clouds to gather and break, sitting down to fill my belly in a warm cabin or a tin-roofed house or a backyard hung with hammocks.
I stood there at that hotel window in Spain, with the curtain wrapped around my sleepy body, remembering all the times when nothing mattered but good food, and warm faces and free-flowing conversation, and the coziness of being sheltered from the wind and rain and thunder. When all the worries about health and body and beauty and self melted away with the first burst of lightning, leaving nothing but an incredible gratitude for being nourished and sheltered and loved.
“Everything is wonderful,” I said. “Come look.”