Thunder, Lightning, and I Found My Spirit Animal

Ahhhhh, Takhini Hot Springs… a lovely outdoor Olympic pool-sized bath fed by the natural hot springs of the Takhini underworld, where everything moves as if in slow-motion– like after dancing it up all night in the club then walking into daylight for the first time in a blurry-eyed state of blissful exhaustion just as the rest of the world starts to get on with their hustle. We were baptized in the healing water and made new. Praise the Takhini gods and the hot Swedish guy working there who stripped into his bathing suit every night to drain the bath. Can you believe they drain it every night?! Cray!

Check out these adorable mermaids that we discovered during our swim!

The one on the right is my daughter, Taegan; the other is my best friend’s daughter, Ona.

Our family, along with another family and old friends, enjoyed the hot springs and fell asleep early in the comfort of our camper, and although I coughed all night, we slept until 11:00 the next morning.

The next day started with a few rain showers. Ah, so quaint.

Until shit got real. 

As water came down harder from the sky and we snatched wet bathing suits and towels off clotheslines, we heard the dragon growl of thunder in the distance. The kids’ eyes grew wide as saucers. “This is my first thunder storm!” Ona exclaimed excitedly as we rushed all the kids and moms into the dry camper. 

One-two-three-four-five-six-seven… FLASH! Lightning illuminated our little camper. The rain poured harder. 

The thunder growled louder this time… one-two-three… FLASH! “It’s getting closer!” The kids cowered like frightened animals.

“Don’t worry,” I assured them. “The best place to be in a lightning storm is next to a tree—definitely NOT in the hot springs though! The lightning looks for the closest conduit to the earth, and the trees are taller than us!” 

So then the kids wanted to know why you didn’t want to get struck by lightning. “Can it kill you?!” Maybe I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

Thunder boomed right above our heads as the same time lightning lit up the room, and it seemed like our camper would split in two. It’s right above us!

“Do you think I should unplug the camper?” Jason asked. I shrugged, and thought about my friend in Jamaica whose mom died when she was struck by lightning. 

Meanwhile, back at the hot springs the Swede who looked like Lancelot had ordered everybody out of the bath. According to my friend, who was stuck in the bathhouse waiting out the storm along with some moms, kids and babies, the lightning struck the bathhouse and caused a power surge. The lights in the bathhouse temporarily went out and the bath house rattled and roared.

Babies were crying, kids were crying, moms were crying… Everyone was crying! We’re all gonna die!!!!

Then, all of a sudden, our friend ran in to the camper and exclaimed, “Rookie mistake! Our tent is a river!” They had parked their tent in a low spot and water and mud rushed under it. Amazingly, their sleeping bags were saved because the sleeping pads floated! AAAHHHHH!!!!!

Later that night after the storm passed, we returned to the hot baths. The Swede told us that that was the first time ever that they had to close the hot springs due to lightning! 

Finding My Spirit Animal

Art by Aida Pascual

Dear Reader, since we are still getting to know each other, it may help to know that back in the day, when I used to live in Central America, my Honduran friends nicknamed me “Coyote”. 

That evening I decided to take my inhaler before bed to help with my cough. Because it’s a steroid, it makes your heart pump fast and can result in insomnia. Tonight was no different.

Around three in the morning, heart still racing, I got out of the bed to walk off the jitters. My footsteps on the gravelly campground were loud and crunchy. I didn’t want to the walk the others in the campground so I tried to walk around the trees and bushes on the soil.

Trying to not make sounds I walked into the wood and came upon a copse of trees. Funny how the trees make circles around each other. 

Photo: John Westrock

I’ve always believed trees to be like seers, because every time they teach me something. The trees always call me back and gift me another lesson. Why? Perhaps because they are perfect, made by God, like children before we put them in a box.  Or is it because they see us from above, they have more perspective. They probably laugh at our frivolity…

Then I heard them. Incessant barking sounding like dogs that would finish with a howl. Then another would join in. Soon, a chorus of barking, punctuated with a howl. Coyotes. 

At one point a lower, more mournful howl rose up with the others. That was a wolf! Just when I thought the world was too quiet…

The nocturnal coyotes continued with their nightly rumpus, calling and responding with barks and howls. I wanted to join them. 

Art: Helen Warren