Ball Lightning


Not our house

Once, when I was in my teens, and my older brother was still at home, my mother opened our wall oven and a ball of lightning rolled out of it like it had always been there. It wasn’t even particularly stormy out, but somehow lightning must have hit out house, run down the wires, and camped out in our oven.

My mum, my brother and I were all standing in the kitchen, a big country kitchen, and we froze, watching the lightning roll off the edge of the oven door, fall onto the floor, and ramble its way across the lino under the table to the cast iron radiator, which it bumped into and vanished. I remember it bounced slightly as it hit the floor.

I remember this moment so clearly, the open oven door, the fact that we were frozen in place. If any of us had moved, we could have been hit by the lightning ball, but where we were positioned, it puttered safely between my brother and I before grounding.

I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since, and it goes into the category in my mind of wonders that have entered my life and do they mean anything?

It was so close. It was as close as the deer that walked between my sister and I doe_eyes_by_lunalupine.jpgonce when we were camping, close enough to see its eyes reflecting us, close enough to touch. Then, too, we stood stock-still, barely breathing, frozen in the appreciation of this creature so nearby.

In either case, if we’d charged or moved, the experience would have been spoiled, vanished. Or maybe we’d have been burnt to a cinder…

Perhaps that’s my lesson for tonight, a reminder to one who rushes at things, throws myself into activities and life only to find it dashing away from me, or, alternatively, burning my fingers. Maybe it’s all about taking the time to stop and wonder, to wait for the miracle to show itself without my pushing it, to just watch.

(Or maybe it’s about radiators. I love them. Especially cast-iron ones, the ones with the intricate floral patterns that hold the dust but make a functional thing more beautiful.)

I dunno. All I know is that ball lightning has fascinated me for over 40 years, and I can still see both it and the deer in complete detail. That’s got to mean something.

PS: it turns out ball lighting is quite the thing – doubted by many, proven by few, and in all sorts of forms, including the killing people sort. I suspect we were lucky that day.

Fatal ball lightning

fatal ball lightning


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