After putting Soëlie down for the night, I heard the first distant peals of thunder. I did not have high hopes for a storm; we so rarely get good ones. But louder and closer got the thunder, and lightning began to illuminate the night sky, flashing through my windows like strobe lights.
It was already 10:00 p.m. and I didn't know if I felt like going through the effort of making myself supper. However, the thought of sitting at the top of the stairs in the courtyard and watching the storm was appealing enough for me to gather a hard-boiled egg, a piece of blue cheese and bread, and a fromage blanc onto a tray and head outside.
The night was oh-so-silent at first. No wind, no birds, no voices, no cars. Then another flash of lightning and a woman on one of the canal boats exclaimed, "Oh!" in wonderment. All I saw as the echo of light across the cloud blanket, my view of the sky constricted by my own house, a two-story garage, and an abandoned pub. As if the woman's cry had broken an imposed silence, other noises filled the night: the rustle of trees, the skitter-patter of raindrops hitting the baked clay and slate shingles of the surrounding buildings like the approach of a thousand mice.
A fine rain began to fall, but I wanted to see the sky, to revel in the forks of lightning and the thunder's booming. I went downstairs, listening for cries from inside to show that Soëlie was disturbed, but she slept on. The view on the south side of my house was no good; the storm was raging over Sancerre, northwest. I walked around, back through my yard, in the dark, not wanting to wander out into the light and civilization of the lamp-lit street. Houses continued to block my view and I wanted badly to bundle Soëlie into the car and chase the storm. I resisted, watching the flashes and searing forks from the darkened passageway between my house and the next.
My stormgazing disturbed one of my neighbors, though, who, not understanding what I was doing--and not bothering to ask--assumed I was spying on him. I pointedly tipped my head to the sky, trying to make him understand, but he stood in the street, staring at me, shoulders squared in defiant menace. I ignored him, preferring the drama in the sky, and he went back in his house, only to appear at the door not a minute later, checking to see if I was still there. When still I refused to move, to thwart me, he turned off the lights in his house, making me feel like some kind of creep.
I stretched and tried not to let it bother me, not going back inside until the rain got a little harder, using that as an excuse to leave my post so he would not think his stupidity was correct.
The music of the thunder and the rain kept me company as I read in the bath, and when I went to bed, I opened the windows, the better to hear the storm. I was afraid the thunder would wake Soëlie, but she never budged. (When she did wake to pee at 2am, I could hear music coming softly from the defiant neighbor's house; he often puts his music on too loud during the day, his friends rev their motorcycles obnoxiously before taking off from his house at all hours of the night, and he certainly thought that I was passive-aggressively protesting his noise when all I cared about was the storm.)
This morning, a fine drizzle was still falling, gaining strength with each hour. The autumn-cool air energized me with a feeling of needing to get things done, an instinctive desire to settle my nest before winter's arrival. I vowed to be productive, to heed nature's message, but then mugginess set in, pressing all my good intentions out of me with its weight.
Instead of productivity, I decided to look up the superstition about swallows in the house. Turns out people believe that to be a harbinger of death. It is the sight of swallows flying low that is supposed to herald rain. The window the fellow above flew through is on the third floor.
I then decided to Google my middle name. A search years ago told me "Nari" means different things from one language to the next, but the meaning that always stuck with me was "thunder" from Japanese. (That too depends on the site; I also saw: "gentle child," "Loud burst of noise from bells," and "Thunder bolt")
Babynamesworld had this to say: The Japanese name Nari may be written with the character for "do; change; make". Other possibilities include the character for "to be", or the characters for "vegetable; greens" (na) and "pear tree" (ri).
A name of Italian origin for boys, says one site, meaning "cheerful."
Another site says: It is also from the Sanskrit meaning "woman" (pronounced with long vowels 'a' and 'i'--My pronunciation is nah-ree). Nari is the name of a daughter of Mount Meru.
I spent time with the Meru people in Kenya. They gave me the name Makena, "the happy one."
But back to thunder. My mother always called me Thunderhead when I was small. It was a bit for my temper, perhaps, and maybe due to Nari's meaning, but mostly it was because I could always hear the thunder before anyone else. "Storm's coming," I would say, looking up at the hot, blue Texas sky, and the storm always came.