Looking out my Backdoor: It was a dark and stormy night


Here in this high plateau valley surrounded by mountains, in the rainy season, roughly mid-June through mid-October, the sky bursts with pyrotechnic activity nearly every night.

I like storms. I like the beauty of lightning skittering across night sky. I like the rumble of thunder. Storms do not scare me. I admit, there are times I’ve nearly jumped out of my skin at a sudden clap of thunder directly overhead but that is simply a startle reflex.

Rain pounding on the roof comforts me. I like when morning sunrise reveals a sparkling, fresh, newly washed world. I admit it felt a bit daunting to me a few nights ago when the sky broke and all hail fell through. But that was a one-off.

Last night was different. Oh, it began ordinarily enough. I climbed into bed to surround sound, comforting rumbles and grumbles overhead which often goes on for hours. Though early enough for ambient light, the night was extremely dark, except for panoramic lightning.

Strangely, no night birds called across the trees. No crickets chirped. The night felt ominously still, devoid of life. Not a leaf quivered. I had not yet fallen asleep when I heard the noise, a roaring, almost a presence, moving across the valley.

Some say it sounded like a train. Or a flight of airplanes. But it was more than noise. The blast of wind held a strangeness, almost like it had a mind and body. The closer it came, the louder it sounded, a monster of the dark.

That wind scared me, nailed me to my bed, heart pounding, covers pulled snugly over my head, afraid to move the entire time it roared overhead, seemingly forever. I could hear the leaves screaming as they were ripped from tree branches.

Iguanas and squirrels and birds and crickets and all manner of wildlife huddled in burrows and nests, heads tucked against danger.

And then the rogue wind, carrying all it had gathered, was gone, blowing into the mountains of Nayarit, leaving silence. Not a drop of rain fell. The air felt like all the energy had been sucked out of the night and spirited away.

The walls of my house stood solid. I had not been carried off to Oz. That wizard wind had come and gone. Lizards crawled out of rocks and tested the air with their tongues. I uncovered my head and we all waited for sunrise.

Well, one’s world will look different in the morning. Maybe not better, not worse, but different.

My world was carpeted, littered, thick with scraps of bougainvillea, bits of leaf and tree debris, a few small branches. Buckets I use in gardening were strewn about. We all, me and my lizards and such, held our breath until mid-morning. By noon the skies were filled with birdsong.

A journey to Oz it was not. But like Dorothy and her cohorts, I probably already have all the heart, brains and courage I need, despite hiding my head under the covers in the dark night.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]


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