Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Wonderful world

Our brains are programmed around routine. There’s safety in routine, and greater likelihood of success, whether it’s sheer survival or merely the overall eventual payoff on daily accomplishment.

But at the same time, we’re gifted with the ability to react, to respond, to immediately take things in when needed.

I just had an incredible experience. Surely one of the most notable experiences of my life.

I was just leaving my house, our Biblical rainfall having ceased, temporarily, and decided to take a photo of the new lakes that have formed in the front yard so that I could send it to my ex-wife. Lining up the perfect shot placed me at the perfect angle to see…

A gigantic ball of lightning strike the street corner just opposite me. 

This ball of lightning was as large as a 10-by-10 room, pure white, and struck the street corner like a flash of energy in a science fiction movie. At first I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at — why was there a giant globe of whiteness over there? — and then the sonic boom! hit, shaking the ground and setting off every car alarm in the neighborhood. Amidst the blaring and the shock of the event, my legs turned to jelly while my brain sizzled with excitement. 

Up and down the block, figures emerged from their houses. My next-door neighbor, Dev, a single dad in his 40s and a good guy, said, “Lee, are you all right?” Farther down I could see the retired teacher, my neighbor of 30 years, standing on his walkway looking my way.

“I’m fine,” I said. “But what was that?” I asked, knowing very well what that was. I just didn’t know what else to say.

“Lightning,” Dev said.

Of course. I’d just seen it.

Now, I’ve been in lightning storms in my life. They weren’t infrequent were I grew up, in southern New Jersey, and one split the mimosa tree in our front yard when I was a boy, neatly cleaving it in half. In 1995 when I was in Fayetteville, Arkansas for a month on a playwriting fellowship, I was up on a mountain in the middle of the night during an especially thrilling lightning storm, one that filled me with ideas and energy, an event I think back to often. But I’d never seen lightning up this close, and at this size.

It was an amazing thing to see.

It was a reminder that while we humans can and do control a lot, there are larger things in the universe that we do not control, cannot control.

And it was a reminder that life, and existence, are filled with wonder.

3 Responses to “Wonderful world”

  1. Adrian Burns Says:

    What an incredible thing to witness. And, glad you and the neighbours are all okay!

  2. Dan Says:

    You evoked the moment perfectly!

  3. Lee Wochner Says:

    Thank you, Dan. This means a lot, coming from a fellow writer. It’s important to be in awe when the moment justifies it; otherwise, you’re just jaded — and missing out on the joy of existence.

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