Old Friends, Mammatus Clouds, A Rainbow and Lightning

"I'm almost speechless...the most gorgeous sky I've seen in my entire life...huge mammatus clouds glowing orange and yellow, a full arc rainbow and lightning...WOW!!!" Facebook Status 8:05pm

Earlier today I was in Glasgow for Camp TJ Orientation at 1:00. TJ Sampson Hospital in Glasgow arranges this yearly camp to be a summer outreach for local Autistic and special needs children. I'd volunteered my photography services free of charge and my time to assist with the camp. My Daughter will also be attending, so it's a great way for me to observe her progress. After orientation, I was sitting in my car when I glanced at the sky. Huge mammatus clouds were hovering above the school. I quickly photographed them and then checked the radar on my phone. Mammatus clouds don't always indicate severe weather, but in my experience they mean it's likely. Hail too. These widespread mammatus lasted for about 45 minutes before departing.

Although our weather was calm, Tennessee's weather remained active today. I was vigilant and monitored the local weather anticipating an impending storm foreshadowed by the mammatus clouds I'd seen earlier. I'd been really stressed lately with so much to do in a short time. I decided to take a break and visit my old neighbors while I was in town. One of them is the woman I've been trying to help for several years. Lately she'd been calling me more than usual and it was apparent she needed to talk. She's been battling depression for years, enduring some major family issues and really could use some good friends. Unfortunately, people are selfish basing friendships on appearance and income. I worry about her now more than before since I've moved out of town. She's currently walking to Houchens for her food due to not having a car. She's living on a $600 disability check...if you call it living. I want so bad to have the money to give her a fresh start. She spent most of her life raising her children leaving little time for herself. Humanity is less than kind to a woman when they've 'let themselves go' after years of stress and low-income. How I wish I could afford to help her and show her what she's missed. I try to encourage her to get off disability and find a job. A job would provide a way for her to believe in herself and the social opportunities that she desperately needs. I spent a good hour with her doing my best to inspire a belief in herself as I always do. I can only hope one day she won't need to call upon me and will believe it herself.

I then visited my other former neighbor. She's a really awesome elderly woman who's now really adorable dating this interesting elderly man she met. Her Husband has been deceased for many years. We used to talk for hours on her porch or while walking to the creek behind our house. I'm so happy for her...it's great to see how happy they are together regardless of their ages and the years of life experiences that were necessary before they could be together. She's a spunky and bright woman for her age and is determined to remain such. She still push-mows her entire yard weekly, even in the heat. I was always so fearful she would have a heart-attack that I was rushing to my window every time there was a change in the sound of the mower. Crazy to worry so much, but knowing first-aid, I would've been her only chance before 911 arrived. Thankfully that never happened due to my stubbornness not allowing her to mow this large hill along the side of her house. My Husband and I regularly took turns mowing that for her. I still remember the day we were finishing moving and saying good-bye. We talked awhile and I mowed the rest of her yard. We hugged good-bye and both ended up crying. I'd always worried I'd been talking her to death those 5 years, but discovered in that moment we equally valued our conversations. When I inquired about her tears, to see if she was ok, she calmly told me she hated to see me go. I was a good neighbor and she would miss me. She worried I'd not come see her now that I'd be out in the country and had my family. I assured her otherwise, yet this was the second time in a year I'd visited. Today I spent two hours visiting with them both determined to begin to make up for my negligence. We traded stories and had a great time. There's something enlightening about talking to the elderly. Alot of people in our generation don't respect them, forgetting that one day they too will look in the mirror and see an unrecognizable face carved by wisdom and years of experiences. They don't realize that we wouldn't have many of the modern conveniences we have today without them. Personally, I love to hear the old stories about what life was like before Facebook, TV and fancy cars. To dream of a time when life was simple and people slowed down, taking the time to enjoy life, conversation and each other. So much wisdom and knowledge is lost with the death of each passing generation. She showed me a photo of when she was 16. Her generation was my age in the late 30's. It was the only photo she had of herself in her youth...the only one they'd been able to afford to get taken professionally and not having a camera. She now looks in the mirror and sees an aged version of the beautiful young woman she will never forget.

I was still monitoring the weather and around 5:30 severe thunderstorm warnings were being issued closer to m location with storms finally firing up as expected. I showed them the radar and began to transition to the door. I'd forgotten how much I'd missed the creek and asked them if they'd been today. Since they'd not yet walked their dog, we went. I got to see the poor condition of my old house and it made me even more grateful at the blessing we received being able to purchase our current home last year. After today, I don't miss renting and I don't miss that too small house with constant issues and required fix-it weekends. I do however miss the creek. It was just as I'd remembered, other than now being overgrown in weeds. She's been mowing what she could, now that I wasn't there keeping it mowed and weed-eated since we both enjoyed it there so much. I took a few photos for my memory and took off my sandles One of my favorite things in life is to walk barefoot in the grass or gripping the bottom of a creek bed as the water flows around my feet. For sentimental reasons, I was eager to walk along the creek again and feel the soothing and healing sensation of being in a place that was always relaxing and comforting to me. For a time, I forgot everything except for where I was in that moment. Afterwards, we retuned to the house and again hugged good-bye. It was bittersweet and I promised to return more often.

During my drive home, I felt a strange sensation...a mix of contentment and the urge to cry. I really enjoyed the social interaction with my old friends. I also needed the reminder that no matter how hard life gets, we are blessed with what we have and should remember to slow down. No wonder I've been stressed!

A couple hours later, my Husband was leaving for work. A strong storm I'd been monitoring was finally approaching. As a photographer and storm spotter, I'm a weather addict. I love to photograph the gorgeous cloud formations and my favorite thing is lightning. It's beautiful, deadly and has remained one of my favorite of God's creations my entire life. Even in my 20's I still see lighting and jump up and down exclaiming, "Oh!" or "Wow!" during a large bolt or veins of heat lighting which is my favorite. After he left, I knelt on the ground with my wide angle lens hoping to capture some lighting. I could hear the tearing of thunder across the sky above me. I could feel that urge to run inside and avoid the deadly lightning. I do not endorse photographing lightning the way that I do. More than likely it will get me killed one day. Lightning can travel over 30 miles and doesn't have to hit you directly to be deadly. Hitting a nearby tree and traveling across the ground can be enough.

It's safest to set-up your camera on a tripod with a remote or remain in a car with the windows up and not touching anything.

I imploring God to just protect me long enough to give me one great lighting shot and I'd go inside. I kept fighting my self-preservation urge to go inside. Even when the sky was darkening and the rain was falling, motionless I sat. The wind was becoming cold and blowing goosebumps onto my skin. Raindrops were bouncing steadily off my head, shoulders and camera. I could hear the drops caressing the leaves in the woods around my house.  I watched in frustrated awe as heat lighting scratched it's way across the sky faster than my camera could capture it. I was determined to try again. My instinct told me to wait a little longer. To ignore my human fears and embrace the storm. In that moment it didn't matter to me who I was, where I was or what stress I had to endure. Everything was forgotten. In that moment I was entranced by the beauty in every direction from the sunset illuminating the mammatus clouds with hues of gold and pink to the rainbow filling the sky and vivid heat lighting. This storm was a very unique storm. I've never in my life seen a sky so beautiful. It is a reminder of how small we are in this world we call home. No camera could ever capture the gorgeous variations of color and texture. After capturing more than I'd expected, I am so thankful at my determination.