The Girl Who Chased a Lightning Storm

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And as I wrapped up my earlier post on w.t.f. ‘energy’ actually is, night time creeped over Bali and it wasn’t long before our villa’s floor-to-ceiling view of the rice fields was cloaked in black. That is, until the lightning came.

From what I’ve gathered, it’s the tail end of the rainy season in Bali. There are thunderstorms in the forecast daily – it actually rains fairly infrequently all things considered – though we have gotten trapped in downpours of monsoon-proportions at least a couple of times at this point.

The lightning literally came out of nowhere tonight… there wasn’t actually any rain to be seen, and only a few distant thunder claps were heard… but as I got up to grab a bottle of water I was stopped dead in my tracks with this crazy white/blue/pink light that momentarily lit up the sky to my right and suspended me in my path. I needed more.

We paused Season 2 of LOST and sat outside…. I had my phone clenched in my hands and set to burst-shot camera mode. The lightning didn’t come nearly as frequently as I’d hoped….

1….2….3….4…. I counted slowly in my head. Often more than 30 seconds would pass between streaks and I got frustrated at my laggard human reaction time… from when my eye would process lightning to triggering my finger to push the button and the time it took my stupid night-time-mode Android to react – I ended up with a camera roll of nothing but black… row upon row of black.

I mean.. I could SEE the energy….

light·ning
ˈlītniNG/
noun
  1. 1.
    the occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud, accompanied by a bright flash and typically also thunder.

Lightning. Energy. We can see it if we look at the right moment – we know, in theory, what creates it, and what it creates in turn when it makes contact with something it shouldn’t… but WHAT. IS. IT?!?

I sat in the muggy Balinese darkness and waited. Delayed snap after delayed snap of darkness, until finally….

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AAAHHHH!!

I mean, I totally get that my attempt was pitiful. (I was shooting with a smartphone, after all). The first momentary capture was blurry.. the next two weren’t much better… BUT, photographic perfectionism aside – it worked! I sat, patiently, and I did it – I harnessed the thing, the energy, that I was straining so hard to see!

However…

It wasn’t enough. I saw this momentary glimpse of energy, I could smell it in the air.. I KNEW it was there… but my method of harnessing wasn’t doing it any justice. How does one justify extrapolating on the topic of energy when I can’t replicate it? Isn’t that how modern science discredits things? By being unable to harness / replicate?

Minutes upon minutes, drowned out by the soundtrack of crickets, frogs, and the odd gecko… I had felt so fascinated by the idea of energy in writing my last post that I couldn’t go back to LOST without something, anything, captured to revisit.

Photo after photo of darkness.

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“Just give me something!” I silently pleaded (with the Universe?).

“I need something to work with to be able to build on this inkling of insight I feel.”

And just as the next thunder clap boomed in the distance, it hit me:

“You’re using the wrong settings, Mary.”

I mean – I’m far from a photographer of any sorts… let alone having any sense of how to properly use the Pro Mode on my android to tweak white balances and ISO settings. I watch Mark show-off — I mean — shoot on pro settings on his phone all the time. He makes underwhelming scenes look like absolute art (which is fortunate for me because I’m usually in them)… but it hadn’t occurred to me before – I was trying to capture lightning on the wrong settings….

Suddenly, this began to happen.

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They still weren’t amazing captures…. but I tweaked my approach a little and the ethereal thing I was attempting to capture began to make itself more apparent. If nothing else, THAT seemed worthy of a little more introspection.

And then… I decided to go back inside. I felt I had what I thought I needed… I’d seen enough “energy”, captured just enough lightning to feel sufficiently reflexive…. but I looked at my phone and it was 11:11. (urgh. It’s ALWAYS 11:11 when I look at my phone!) – so much so that I’ve researched the ridiculous spiritual meaning of this ridiculous repetitive number bullshit – isn’t this the time when spiritual gateways open up and the magic happens? I mean, wishing hour and all? I felt childish in my hopeful thinking …. but then, just as suddenly as the thought came in, suddenly I felt my entire demeanour change.

My furrowed brow, previously straining to catch a photo, softened a little. My shoulders slouched a little more and I sunk into my cross-legged position on our lounger. It’s like this wave of calm washed over me and dissolved all inner sense of goal-oriented struggle. Suddenly it felt less like work and more like a privilege to be sitting on a lounger in Bali, staring at a lightning storm over a rice field.

And then, that’s when this happened:

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I couldn’t edit this if I tried.

From a sea of blackness and frustration, to a slight adjustment to my approach… and suddenly, out of nowhere, this single solitary moment of sheer, utter magic….

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To be honest, I was hoping for one of those epic lightning-bolt streaks across a dark sky that you often see photogs capturing with $10,000 long-exposure setups. But when I saw this photo – granted it’s grainy (and still from a cell phone)… I knew my quest for proof of *something* would suffice for one night.

I wanted to tuck away some outward validation of this inner struggle I’d been having with the idea of energy and it’s elusiveness. This idea that it’s there, but it’s not really there – it’s undeniable but it’s barely harnessable …. you can’t see it – you can only see the effects it has on its surroundings… but its effects are impossible to ignore.

Curious thing, about examining something you’ve never looked at closely before:

  1. I had to trust that I was capable of witnessing it, harnessing it, despite being completely inexperienced at doing exactly that – I had to know it might have been possible, or else I wouldn’t have even tried.
  2. I had to trust in its intrinsic value – to prioritize it over the comfort of luxurious down pillows and Season II of LOST
  3. I had to wait. I couldn’t demand it to appear – I had to allow it to reveal itself in its own time
  4. I needed to not give up. Despite my frustration with a camera roll of blackness, I had to keep trying.
  5. I needed to be receptive to ‘being told’ that my attempts were feeble so long as I didn’t adjust my tools. I mean, if the camera settings were inherently apparent to me maybe it wouldn’t have come in as such a revelation – maybe my photographer husby would’ve known better from the start… but I needed to calibrate my tools.
  6. I nearly stopped trying at the smallest inkling of ‘success’. I almost closed up shop at ‘good enough’… and it took the weird coincidence of repeating numbers to dissuade me from stopping.
  7. Gratitude. I stated my intention – to further explore the idea of ‘energy’ – and I allowed myself to become immeasurably grateful the moment what I was looking for appeared.  Gratitude

The quest continues…..

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