There is a storm coming. Thunderstorms arrive here after days of build up, coming in only after the air has grown so thick with moisture and the promise of rain that you wade through it. It sits heavy on your skin and you look at the sky and exchange the same words with every stranger you see.
“Is it going to rain?”
This means not just is it going to rain, but when is it going to rain and how long will it rain for and where is the storm we’ve been promised and how did we get so lucky.
Southern storms are chaos and catharsis. They rage above your head, lighting the sky in flashes and the lingering brightness behind your eyelids that traces lightning bolts after they’re gone. They are a sudden release from the tension you didn’t realise you were carrying while you waited for the heat to break.
I never saw these storms in Scotland. I never felt the build up: rain was a constant, damp was forever. Rather than lay on top of you, it was in you, a deep chill that took days to disappear. It lingers in me even now, I can feel it when I see pictures of Edinburgh’s bright grey sky.
In fact, I don’t know that I’d ever say I felt a storm in Scotland. Rain, yes. But a storm that takes days to build and crashes through the sky, announcing itself for all to hear? No, I can’t say I ever felt one of our brash American storms out there.
Soon I’ll be buying a ticket to sleep under another set of stars, to grow familiar with another kind of weather. I will be by the water again, I will see the change from winter into spring. What do they call the haar there? What sound does the air make before the rain begins to fall?
And how many stars are there that I haven’t seen?
I’ve slept under southern skies before, I can find the cross, but I have never called them home. I have slept under northern stars for almost 29 years and though I couldn’t count them all, they are familiar. But I will be facing a different side of the universe, seeing the other half of the vastness of creation that I still cannot fathom. And yet two of the happiest nights of my life, two of the nights where I stopped and just let myself sit with the wonder and beauty and thrill of the world, two nights where magic felt real – they happened under southern stars. They happened in the blackest black of the night when I looked up at the enormous sky and thought that the whole world was designed for that moment.
I have missed the southern storms and I miss the Scottish skies, but even knowing that this adventure has meant letting go of other dreams, I am ready to sleep under strange stars again.