Distant Lightning

On our last evening in Florida, I went outside after sunset to enjoy the cool breeze off Sarasota Bay and to listen to the squawking of night herons that emerge from mangroves to hunt along the seawall.  A red blaze still shimmered across the western horizon while, to the southeast, a line of thunderstorms rose above the gathering darkness, their thunderheads catching the last rays of the sun.

Flashes of lightning illuminated the borders of each storm; some strikes were cloud to ground but most were cloud to cloud, providing a fabulous light display.  Due to their distance from Longboat Key (at least 60 miles per the internet radar), their thunder was inaudible (at least to the human ear); as a child, I was taught that lightning without thunder is "heat lightning," a phenomenon distinct from the lightning of thunderstorms.  Of course, like many other myths instilled in my innocent brain, that bit of information proved to be inaccurate.

I watched those thunderstorms for a half hour or more, their forms gradually disappearing between lightning strikes and the entire show slowly retreating to the south; eventually, I could only see an occasional flash along the horizon or, more often, its reflection in the higher cloud tops.  By then, the storms were closing in on Miami and a clear, star-filled sky stretched above Sarasota Bay.