There’s something beautiful and terrifying about a thunder-shower; maybe it’s because in the past week everyday there has been an evening storm, some more violent than others but definitely all more than I am accustomed to, so I have lightning on my mind.
Growing up I diagnosed myself as having a “nervous disposition” at least that’s what I learnt from watching TV. Just before a programme started and it came with the announcement that
“Warning the following programme is not for those with a nervous disposition, viewer discretion is advised”
That would be my cue to leave the room.
Thunderstorms are nature’s very own apocalyptic movies; watching a flash of lightning would make my heart skip a beat and the clap of thunder that rumbled on and on seemed to reverberate in my very bones. I am not sure what I feared most; the lightning or the thunder or even why it terrified me so much, maybe it was just the loud noise or perhaps it was the seemingly inevitable probability of death by lightning.
We fear what we don’t understand
Years later, in school I would learn about science and the wonderful around me, including the interesting world of static electricity. Rubbing a plastic ruler on your head gave it a static charge which you could use to pick up a piece of paper or move the hairs on your arm almost in the way a magnet could attract an iron filing. Friction of your feet on the carpet would result in a charge build up which could spark from your fingertips onto a metal door handle and lightning was something similar to that. Lightning was simply a rather overzealous discharge of electricity due to cloud friction.
Shout out to Benjamin Franklin for making the lightning conductor and his controversial kite experiment, which I doubt was actually conducted otherwise he was one lucky scientist for not getting fried by lightning.
After this lightning was less scary and I could explain away some crazy myths about lightning and laugh at my naiveté.
How on earth did I ever believe wearing something red increased my chances of being struck by lightning?
I remember walking home from primary school with satchel that had red reflective highlights which were quite handy when you walking or cycling at night it made you easy to spot to drivers; only fools and ninjas wear black at night….
Long story short, one day walking home from school there was an out of the blue lightning storm. Every time there was a lightning flash I would shield the red bits of my bag so the lightning couldn’t see them and I would close my eyes so I could not see the lightning flash; it made sense at the time, but it was a long walk to freedom…
There’s no scientific link between wearing something red and being struck by lightning but even now at my big age I would rather not wear something red during a thunderstorm. Red for danger
There’s a district in Zimbabwe; ZAKA which used to carry a certain underground notoriety for having the highest level of sorcery and witchcraft. Some would joke that ZAKA was an abbreviation for Zimbabwe African Killers Association. There’s a phrase Zaka rinopisa literally meaning Zaka is hot which could be in part, a nod at the hot Zaka weather in the low lying hot region enroute to the Lowveld or implying the level of mysticism as a hotspot for witchcraft.
Zaka used to have a very high prevalence for lightning related fatalities and it’s said some people could direct or send lightning because some lightning strikes seemed rather purposeful or intentioned like after an altercation with an individual one could get struck by lightning on a clear blue sky…
Until recently when constitution was amended, officially it did not recognise mysticism and the paranormal and there even used to be a Witchcraft Suppression Act 9:19, under which if you fingered someone for sorcery or accused them of bewitching you, you would be the one to end up in jail….
During a Geography lesson our teacher explained that the high prevalence of lightning in Zaka was due to several factors
- The sparse bushy vegetation of the region meant that human settlements were the tallest objects and also walking in the open plains meant you were tallest and most likely to be struck.
- The area’s rich red soils are an indicator of iron ore deposits, iron being a good conductor would definitely attract lightning strikes.
Our teacher also made an interesting postulation on how: what if some people knew of a certain iron rich rock which if planted on a person or location greatly increased the likelihood of a lightning strike….. Makes sense….
“Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from witchcraft“
The theory makes sense but our Geography teacher wasn’t the most reliable of sources considering that in the very next breathe he told us about how once upon a time he saw lightning zig zagging in a herd a cattle killing beast after beast after beast and then as it started to zig zag towards him; using his hands to elaborate how the lightning zigged and zagged and just when it was upon him, he ducked and the lightning sailed over his head (If that story is to be believed than he must have had very quick reflexes…. I wonder if it made a whistling sound as it flew over his head)
The cows that died had to buried, apparently, we don’t eat beef from cattle that have been struck by lightning.
Why oh why do we not partake of the meat of an animal that has been struck by lightning? It’s not like it’s contagious or anything; right? I mean apart from maybe the burnt flavor whats the worst that could happen? Could it suddenly reanimate in your stomach on a Dr Frankenstein’s monster tip and chew your insides? Imagine going to a doctor with a lacerated innards and the doctor will ask you
“Did you ever eat an animal that was killed by lightning?”
The places my mind goes to.
PS I didnt understand a lot about lightning; until it hit me…. stay peeled for my next story about my shocking encounter with lightning