NOTE: If you’re just joining us, this is the 4th installment in a series of “Moments,” selected at random from the “journey of a raindrop,” the road trip of a lifetime. I’m a travel photographer and writer in love with the Mississippi River, so when I learned that it takes a single drop of water 90 days to travel the entire Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, I knew that I would make this journey. For 90 days, I kept pace with my imaginary raindrop, wandering back roads, meeting amazing people and having days filled with crazy, wonderful, serendipitous experiences. As the book of photographs and tales is being produced, I’m sharing these travel moments with you here. I hope you enjoy!
The Mississippi River is still young, agile and pristine. On this 10th day of the journey, it has traveled 265 miles from its headwaters.
My home for a few days is a simple fishermen’s cabin on Lake Waukanabo, near Palisade, Minnesota. The small resort has no other guests and the lake no public access, so it seems to belong to Abby, the resident Golden Retriever, and me.
Last night at dusk we sat on the porch together, her head resting on my foot, and listened to the hauntingly beautiful call of loons echoing across the lake. When we walked this morning, the world was painted in baby pastels.
On our late afternoon walk, the lake had become a shimmering mirror for a brilliant September sky decorated with perfect, tiny clouds.
Now, I am on the porch, watching billowing, ominous clouds swallow up what is left of the blue. I’ve watched the lake transform from glassy azure to dull slate to nearly black and dotted with whitecaps. A fisherman is racing for home as fast as his small motor will propel him, the sound of its desperate puttering muffled by the dense clouds. Abby has gone home.
The surging mass of storm cloud has dark underbellies and churning white tops. It swells, then folds in on itself and then bulges out again, heavier and blacker. Goosebumps rise on my arms. I can smell the rain now and see it at the horizon, but the air around me is still and empty, the energy sucked out of it by the power amassing above. I wait – it’s like the moment when the symphony conductor raises the baton and the audience holds its collective breath.
I can hear the wind coming. The first deep rumblings of faraway thunder roll across the lake and the clouds congeal to seal off the last of the sunlight. The wind swoops in suddenly, swirling the trees like a blender. There is a sharp crack of blue lightning and the long, bass drum roll of its thunder. A wall of rain is sweeping across the lake.
The first huge drop hits the porch and in the next second, the great clouds are unzipped. There is no lake, no sky, no road, nothing but gray torrents of rain. I scoot back against the cabin, but the narrow eaves provide little shelter, so I open the door and set my chair just inside. A bolt of lightning cracks so close and loud that it makes me yelp like a puppy. Immediately, another follows that seems to rise up from the ground, making the cabin tremble and the porch light rattle in its base. I am spellbound, a captive audience.
It’s cold now, so I wrap myself in a blanket, but I stay in the doorway, awed, entranced by the storm’s fierce majesty, thrilled by its dominion over everything until, finally, it begins to wane.
I am spent. The rain is soft and steady as I get into bed and the sleep that claims me instantly is silky, luxurious and dreamless.