First a wind that lifts the sticky humid curtain of the sky, pushing the trees and the tomato plants to one side. A few fat droplets of rain and a far-off-sounding, ominous-seeming thunder rumble. You think you've got time to swim out one more time to the end of the dock where the cormorants keep flying back to sun themselves each time you swim away. Then: the skycurtain drops back down, suddenly lightproof, and it is dark enough to see the lightning arcing sideways across the whole black bowl of ugly clouds. You swim like hell for shore, the lifeguard yelling; you stuff your groceries in your backpack and sprint for home; you pause the movie and stand out on the porch, where all your neighbors are doing the same, all eyes skyward.
Then comes the storm.
The few fat drops turn all at once into rain, and you are soaked in the fifteen steps between garage and front door, you are soaked standing on the porch under the awning. The ominous-seeming thunder is an apocalypse taking place directly overhead, each battering drop of rain strobe-lit every twenty seconds as God hunts for you to smite. You are five years old and hiding under the kitchen table. The world is going to end. You duck your head and laugh your fearful, gleeful, this-is-why-people-built-houses-in-the-first-place laugh; you think of Muir up his tree; you wonder if the neighbors would notice if you ran outside naked; you wish your mom was here. Your heart stops; your heart is singing louder than the thunder; your heart is pure mammalblood and thrill.
Then, suddenly, you remember to count between flash and crash: God's terrible searchlight is moving on. You laugh again, the same way you might laugh after you broke down sobbing in public and finally noticed the staring crowd: Did all that emotion come out of me? Goodness, how silly. I don't even believe in God.