The Island, Part 4: The Perfect Storm

The summer has arrived, and with it the longing for My Island, which I am once again unable to visit this year.

In the last post I wrote from the “My Island” series, I wrote about the ever-changing weather that visits the island. Everything from fog and light showers to both cloudy and cloudless days. Oh, and the storms. What storms…

Storms on an island are quite different from storms inland, especially when your cottage is just above the water line. During storms, the wind blows so fiercely and the waves reach such heights that when the waves finally crash down, you can feel it in the ground. One storm, the winds were so strong that they tore the cable connecting some poor fisherman’s buoy to its lobster trap deep in the ocean, and once the storm passed, I found the buoy washed up on the rocks by our cottage. (I even took it back with me to New York, as there was no way of knowing how far away it came from, and therefore who it belonged to.) But the wind doesn’t only work wonders by sea (or ocean, as the case may be). You can see seagulls fighting against the wind, either struggling just to hover in one place, or even be pushed backward. And on land, the wind will blow away anything not tied down. In our little cottage, the glass window panes rattle so loudly during storms that it’s a wonder none of them ever broke during our time there.

It usually stinks being cooped up inside on a rainy day, but storms on My Island are an adventure I can go on without leaving the couch. They always start with dark clouds rolling in from afar. I’d try to guess how soon it would be until the storm was upon us, but I never seemed to have a knack for it. The winds would start picking up and before I knew it, the clouds were above us. And then I’d snap out of it and suddenly realize that there were things to do! I’d run out to the deck, fold up the reclining lawn chairs and rush them inside, so as to protect the fabric from getting wet (there’s little in the world as annoying as sitting down on a lawn chair just to hear a squish and know that your bottom is soaked). Then I’d rush back out and quickly turn over the plastic table and chairs against the wind so they wouldn’t be blown off the deck. By that time a light drizzle would begin to fall and I’d quickly rush back inside, missing the sudden downpour by mere seconds. Then I’d settle in for the show.

The show actually starts long before the storm clouds are above us. It begins when the storm is still a ways off and it is unclear whether or not the winds will blow it in our direction or if we’ll be spared its wrath. At that point the beautiful phenomenon of rain clouds appearing to cry into the ocean would usually be visible. (If you don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, take a look at the “Rainy Day” pictures from my last post in this series.) The rain clouds, which are so thick and heavy on top, seem to turn into nothing more than wisps of cloud dancing across the horizon. And then, if the winds do favor us with a storm, there’s the sensation of impending doom as these dark, heavy clouds come rolling in from afar at varying speeds, nothing obstructing our view, what with endless ocean for miles and miles. (Pictures of this can also be seen in the last post.)

Once the storm is upon us, the real fun begins. Lightning, the likes of which this city girl hasn’t seen anywhere else. Forks of brilliant light sizzling down from above, lighting up the heavens and the earth as if it were the middle of the day (which sometimes it was, but you wouldn’t know that with such thick clouds blocking out the sun). Sometimes nature would freeze during a flash of lightning, as if waiting for some lucky photographer to snap a picture of it. (Regretfully, I couldn’t tear my eyes away long enough to release the shutter, so I have no photo evidence of this.) And sometimes there would be simultaneous flashes of lighting viewable from different directions. I often do two things when the lightning flashes: I hold my breath for the duration of the flash (which sometimes seemed endless), and I count the seconds before the thunder rumbles. Much like in a horror movie, the suspense builds as the time between lightning and thunder lessens, knowing full well that one of these times the storm will be directly above us. To make matters more frightening, as the storm gets closer, the thunder often goes from a low, distant rumbling to a deafening crack loud enough to leave my ears ringing for minutes. But just as quickly as the storm comes on, it leaves, the only hint of it ever having happened being the light pitter-patter of rain slowly passing onward as well. Ah, such beauty.

And now for an entertaining story – the one time I was caught outside during a storm (ok, ok, maybe not the only time, but those stories will have to wait for another post), and just my luck! It was 3 storms colliding together right above My Island!

One summer when I was still a little girl, I went up to My Island to join my grandparents for a week before my parents joined. During that time, a notice was posted on the old rope shed on “Main Street,” where all sorts of island news were posted (much like a Facebook wall nowadays), that there was to be a concert in the one-room school-house one night that week. My grandmother and I decided to go. As we left the cottage, it looked as if it might start raining, so taking our umbrellas, we trekked the entire length of “Main Street” from the end with our cottage to the other end with the one-room school-house. I don’t remember much about the concert. There was a guy with a guitar. Maybe it was a girl. Maybe there were other instruments, maybe not. I found the storm brewing outside to be much more entertaining. And over the next couple of hours, the storm itself was fabulous. But the evening passed and the concert ended, leaving everyone to find their way home on the dark, lampless dirt roads.

We stepped outside, umbrellas at the ready, waiting to be battered in the face with stinging pellets of rain, but nothing happened. No rain was falling. In fact, surrounding us was an eerie calm. We were in the eye of the storm. With the lightning lighting up the clouds and the thunder rumbling deeply, we took advantage of the break from rain and tried to make our way home as quickly as possible. It was difficult making our way by flashlight on a muddy dirt-road riddled with gigantic puddles. It would have been fun for me, jumping in all those puddles, had it not been so eerily calm. No one else walked the roads, no dogs were barking. My overactive imagination was going to some very scary places when all of a sudden we heard some laughter further on up the road. The road curved a few feet ahead of us, so we couldn’t see what was going on, but just as we knew that there were people up ahead, they soon knew we were approaching as well.

“I see flashlights! Quick, hide!” one person yelled.

The others all listened, but not before we turned the curve. In the beam of our flashlight we saw a small group of teenagers jumping behind trees and into bushes. But there was something strange about these teenagers. They were all wrapped in bed sheets. It would seem as though they went out for a little daredevilish fun, skinny dipping in the ocean during the storm, grabbing the sheets off their motel beds as their only covers.

As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough, my grandmother looked out at all these young’uns wearing sheets and said with complete delight, “Oh! A toga party!”

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