Monday, April 25, 2016

Thunderstorms ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The other day when we walked the air felt as thick as grits. Halfway up the hill on our return lap both Jilda and I were huffing. It should have come as no surprise because thunderstorms were moving in. Even though they were still one day and two states away, I could feel their power.

When I was in Panama in 1972, a tropical storm swept southward over Cuba and into the Caribbean Sea. Sleep was difficult the evening before the storm made landfall because it felt as though I had a weight sitting on my chest.

The wind and rain swept through during the night on Friday leaving an angry surf and clouds the color of mourning doves.

Several of us ventured down to the shore in swimsuits on Saturday for a first-hand look at the ocean. Ten-foot waves drove inland, and I tried a time or two to body surf, but the force of the water slammed me down hard. For days afterward I dug sand from my hair, ears, and other places.
Once I realized that body surfing was unwise, I found a palm tree that had washed up with the tide and sat for a long while. Off in the distance, I could see cloud to cloud lightening, but it was impossible to hear thunder over the roar of the sea. I’d never felt so small before.

After breakfast on Sunday, the guys in my barracks went back out for another look. The tide had taken the palm tree away to some other shore.

The force of the pounding waves had dredged up long buried shells with exotic names like

Gaudy Natica and Fighting Conch. It was beautiful, but also a humbling experience.

When we go to the ocean, these days I always look for seashells, but usually only find picked-over pieces of shells. 

But once when we spent New Years with our friends Kaye and Ron at their new house in Blue Mountain, Florida our luck was much different.

A tropical depression had formed in the Gulf and was moving toward the Panhandle, but we didn’t let the storm dampen our spirits. We feasted on lobster, crab claws, and some mighty
rad gumbo as the storm raged outside. Through the south-facing windows, you could see lightening jabbing the ocean offshore.

The next morning the clouds had moved off to the east leaving blue skies and a warm sun. 

The temps were in the low 50s, but we put on our sweatpants and headed to the beach.  I walked a little ahead of the others and spotted a Horse Conch, which is a beautiful shell. It was in perfect condition. Soon I heard Jilda squeal as she found a shell as big as a saucer.

Even though it was too chilly to swim, all four of us were in the waist-deep surf snatching shells from the sand. By the time we headed back for lunch, we had a treasure trove. 

We shared shells with friends and family, but we still have baskets filled with the shells we picked up the day after that storm.

We live in a strange and wonderful world. Storms can sweep through leaving a path of death and destruction, but sometimes they leave a trail of beauty in their wake.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on You can contact him via email at


  1. This is a great post. I love thunderstorms. I find them relaxing yet exciting too. I like to rush out to the water after a storm to find treasures too.

  2. I love both stories of the storms as well as you and Jilda feeling the effects of the oncoming storm. Of course I am partial to a good storm anyway so I especially enjoyed this.

  3. I agree with Lisa! Great post. I love shells, always on the look out, but our beach only seems to have pieces. I used to collect, but mostly what my grandfather found on a Florida beach where he often visited.

  4. Anonymous11:33 PM

    I still have a jar full of shells that the kids & I found when they were small (the kids; not the shells)!!

  5. I could feel the wind and smell the salt air! I love the ocean but have never been there during a storm. We had storms come through early this morning. Even inland the treasures left behind are fresh smelling air and super green grass...that will now need to be mowed! Have a good Tuesday!

  6. There is beauty to be found after the storms. Love your shells.

  7. It has been years since I walked along a beach after a storm looking for shells... I live so close to the ocean I need to make that a priority this year... I would love to have some of the beautiful shells it would leave in its wake... awesome description Rick

  8. Sea shells are like buried treasure. I don't think I'll ever stop looking for and admiring them.

  9. I like to watch a thunderstorm, if I am safe inside the house and the storm isn't that bad. I also like how the air smells after rain


Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required