I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania where summers were hot and muggy. When a thunderstorm rolled in I loved to sit on the porch swing watching sheets of rain pour down off the roof, with the lilacs 15 feet away becoming a mere shadow of themselves through the water.




A fine mist reached the back of my neck as the downspout by the house tried—and failed—to keep up with the downpour. The chains of the porch swing creaked as I would swing in and out of that mist at the edge of the porch, playing turkey with getting either really wet or just a little wet. The lampshade behind the screen door of the house glowed warm and golden and safe. The thunder and lightning were energizing, and the cool air that followed a thrill after the heat of July.

The porch a haven.

I still love a thunderstorm, and this has been a hot summer here in central Vermont—a perfect incubator for many thunderstorms over the last few weeks.

As I write the sky is dark, the white pines and weeping willow branches are whipping about in the wind and the first big drops are starting to polka dot the car. Steam is rising up from the pea stones and the air is 10 degrees cooler than it was 10 minutes ago.

I don’t have a photograph of that screened door on my childhood porch, with the glowing lampshade on a stormy afternoon. The image still lives quite potently in my head, and I’m glad for that.

The photographs that most capture the essence of those memories from 30 years ago are those of Joel Meyerowitz from his 1979 book Cape Light. My mother bought the book in the early 80s and I pored over its pages then. Later I found my own copy which I like to hunt our bookshelves for this time of year. I show my favorite pages here, including the fantastic image of a lightning strike parallel to a porchpost—lamp glowing just inside the door, so similar to my memory.

All photography © Joel Meyerowitz, Cape Light, 1979. There is a new, expanded edition available. Buy a copy of Cape Light here or here.

Joel sells some merchandise from his own site, including some prints here.