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Summer Heat

Rain slapped the roof. Wind whistled through the trees. The shutters. My soul. It sounded like someone was moving furniture in the next room. Light flashed through the windows and finally I woke up. It was just a summer storm.

Heat can do that you know? It can work up the atmosphere into a frenzy.

We all know warm air rises. What we may not realize is that air contains water droplets that combine when they get caught up in clouds and that’s when the fun starts. The wetter and warmer the air, the quicker it rises. Places that have high humidity – like the eastern United States – are more likely to create the conditions to build into massive thunderstorms.

According to Clouds contain millions and millions of water droplets and ice particles suspended in the air. As the process of evaporation and condensation occurs, these droplets collide with other moisture that is condensing as it rises. The importance of these collisions is that electrons are knocked off of the rising moisture, creating a charge separation. The newly knocked-off electrons gather at the lower portion of the cloud, giving it a negative charge. The rising moisture that has lost an electron carries a positive charge to the top of the cloud.

As the rising moisture encounters colder temperatures in the upper cloud regions and begins to freeze, the frozen portion becomes negatively charged and the unfrozen droplets become positively charged.

The charge separation creates an electric field. The strength or intensity of the electric field is directly related to the amount of charge build-up in the cloud. As the collisions and freezing continue to occur, and the charges at the top and bottom of the cloud increase, the electric field becomes more and more intense -- so intense, in fact, that the electrons at the Earth's surface are repelled deeper into the Earth by the negative charge at the lower portion of the cloud. This repulsion of electrons causes the Earth's surface to acquire a strong positive charge.

All that is needed now is a conductive path so the negative cloud bottom can conduct its electricity to the positive Earth surface. The strong electric field creates this path through the air, resulting in lightning. The lightning is a high-voltage, high-current surge of electrons, and the temperature at the core of a lightning bolt is incredibly hot. For example, when lightning strikes a sand dune, it can instantly melt the sand into glass. The combination of the rapid heating of the air by the lightning and the subsequent rapid cooling creates sound waves – that’s what we call thunder.

And while all that is going on scientifically, I lay in bed and enjoy the show. There’s just something so soothing about a summer storm. Perhaps the air is working out the balance of all that negative and positive energy – restoring order. Wouldn’t that be nice if people could do the same?

If we could let off a few large bangs and get on with the business of being pleasant.

I don’t know about your household, but generally speaking there is an on-going tension that seems to pervade American politics and pundits these days. They just go on and on and on. Without some form of discharge, it’s just a bunch of hot air. And we wonder why there’s another mass shooting or riot or terrible event that signals to us all there’s a problem.

If there’s anything we can agree about, it’s that the lack of balance is hurting our world. If we listen to the news – which we can do 24/7 on all our devices – there’s a sense of turmoil stirring in the air constantly.

But is there? I recently had the wonderful privilege of taking an 8-day motorized river raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with 20 strangers (and a few good friends). This group was comprised mostly of graduates from an Indian college – some who live in the States and others from India and Europe. When you travel in a raft together and eat and sleep together at such close proximity, you get to know people pretty well. Let’s just say, there was very little privacy.

While this proximity could have resulted in tension, it actually caused us to see our similarities. As the week rolled along, we found common ground and began to build friendships. Quite spontaneously, the last evening we all formed a circle and sang songs we knew, some choosing to dance and others to cheer them on. We formed a congo line to queue up for dinner. The shared spirit enveloped us all in a way that restored my faith in humanity.

Travel can do that. It can help us get out of a single-minded focus that creates polarization with those who see things differently. The pandemic separation of these last few years has widened the gap and, in many ways, added to the perception that we are safer if people keep their distance from one another. It’s a recipe for disaster.

We need one another.

This summer let’s find a way to cross the divide – whether it’s inviting a neighbor for a cookout or making elaborate travel plans – these long summer days give us an opportunity to stir things up a bit. Let’s make a conductive path to peace.


It was pouring and hailing down -Thunder and sternness reigning Yet, lighting still struck through -The storm was plainly on its way And as lighting turned the sky violet -Rain was the only answer

- Anonymous


Grand Canyon River Raft Trip May 2-10, 2022