The Relief of Thunder and Black Women

Texas hot… North Texas hot… Mid-summer Texas prairie heat. Hotter than Houston. Weeks on end of 100+ degree temps… 102, 104, 106 degrees. Barely a cloud in the sky. Cyclical summer drought; searing skies without a drop of rain. At 725 feet, Fort Worth is low enough and central-east enough on the Great Plains to still hold some humidity, which makes all the difference, compared with the higher and drier and seemingly cooler Western Plains.

Read in the paper that it was in the 60’s in places like Detroit and Cleveland this weekend. Right now I cannot imagine 60 degree weather. Here, it’s above 80 when the Sun comes up. Here, people fight for rare, scrawny shade tree parking spaces. And I like heat, so if I’m saying something, it’s hhhot.

Been a long slog of a summer, days and weeks on end of work at GPRC as we catch up on a crucial body of work that we’d expected done from an associate but found out otherwise. I also have to finish the second edition edits and new epilogue for my book. Very soon.

Great lengths of solitude and endless work, broken only by interface with my core executive team and our youth. Little else. Weeks of sleep deprivation. Brain cells smoking. Still single. My son has been gone to Colorado only since July 4 but it feels like forever. It’s hhhhot.

I’m not complainin, just communicating. Right now I dream of ice-cold watermelon and a friendly smile.

For those who know my past, you know my faith in people is still relatively new, and has always been a little tenuous. Lately it feels a little shaky again.

Weak, flaky people drive me crazy. I don’t even go to church, but I know what the Bible says about ‘girding your loins”. I’d like to see a little more stamina, selflessness, skill and strategy and less inadequacy in Our Time of Great Struggle. Ask Jane Goodall. Or ask Nelson Mandela. That old mf spent 27 years in prison before he even really got started.

The Sun is my father, the Eye of God. Normally I seek out his blaze, to twist out my bones and purify my soul. But even I have sought relief from the constant glare this summer.

In times like these, I inadvertently pull back from people. This afternoon, after the gym I decided to run along the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. Stupidly I forgot my running shoes, so I just walked. The winds picked up, a few clouds rolled in and began condensing, and by the time I got to the little pecan grove a singular thundercloud was boiling above my head like a pristine atomic blast. I caught sight of movement way up there, past the roiling lip of white, black and grey clouds sliding over the bright blue. A vulture, a tiny black scythe, was slicing in and over the storm lip, buffeted by winds, like he was more than curious.  Having fun. God pulled the shade, and down here it suddenly seemed ten degrees cooler.

On my way back, the thunder began rumbling. A few bolts of lightning flashed electric white with that purple edge. Beyond the storm cloud the sky was bluebird clear, but we were in shadow. My eyelids grew heavy as if a giant hand had palmed them closed. The wind offered something, then left and it was calm. I would love to get struck by lightning, when it’s my time. Ride it all the way up and out.

I opened my eyes. About 30 feet away, a fine black woman with her hair pulled back was walking in the direction I’d come, her basset hound on a leash. You know how black recognizes fam and, even at that distance, heads helplessly catch; you’ve never seen each other but you suddenly have a momentary conversation like you’ve been knowing each other all your lives.

“I saw the thunder and lightning, but I still had to come,” she said, smiling beautifully. White teeth.

“Isn’t it nice?” I asked, forgetting my ‘always-cool and reserved’ and unconsciously praising my palms to the sky.  I smiled broadly back.

“It sure is,” she said, helplessly raising her arms a little too.

“Okay, well you have a blessed day,” we both said, passing out of each other’s lives forever.

Sometimes I think I owe my life to all the random black women in the world who have lifted me up in moments when I needed it most, as if I were grandson, son, future husband, brother, cousin, friend.

In my car, I opened the windows and the sunroof as I drove off. The thundercloud only dropped three big drops of rain; they landed on my windshield like liquid cats then quickly scrambled off.

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