The Downslope of Summer
Saturday 9: Into You

Fireworks at Sea

When I was little, I would sit out in the yard on hot summer evenings and watch the sky light up. Mom called it "heat lightning" and I thought it was really cool. Just the name -- heat lightning -- sounded distant and mysterious. I loved gazing at it as I sat on the low patio wall on a hot summer night. Sometimes I'd sit by my bedroom window late at night when the heat made sleep impossible and look for the flashes behind the clouds, hoping that it signaled a coming thunderstorm with real, actual lighting and booms of thunder that would cool everything off for a day or two.

Alas, there's really no such thing as heat lightning. It's actually just garden-variety lightning that's so far away that you can't hear the thunder accompanying it.

This memory came back to me a couple of weeks ago, when we were in Ocean City for a long weekend. I went out on the porch to see what Joe was up to, and he pointed off to the east, toward the ocean. Somewhere over the wide Atlantic there was a monster thunderstorm and the lightning was silently illuminating the sky, flashing away in the night.

So I recorded about a minute's worth for your enjoyment. The constant lights toward the bottom of the frame are lights from the neighboring houses. But the flashes -- well, that's heat lightning, Nature's fireworks way far away.