Waiting to catch a flash of lightning

We escaped the Texas heat last week to spend time in Colorado. The highlight of the trip was a hike in the mountains to visit two waterfalls. I love mountain hikes, but am particularly enamored with switchbacks.

Switchbacks are trails that zigzag along the side of the mountain. Instead of going straight up, you move sideways. Though the incline is kinder, switchbacks are an odd experience because you don't feel like you're making progress. As you go back-and-forth, little changes.

Then you step out from under the forest's canopy and are greeted by a spectacular view of the mountainside. For miles in every direction are mountaintops, some coated with snow, and far below is the spot where you began.

That deception is what fascinates me, the sense that you're not making progress when in reality, you're climbing with every step.

There have been a number of switchbacks during these two years on the Uncommon trail, but this month, we've been able to step into a clearing and enjoy the view. On August 1, we released the new version of the site to our founding members. For the first time, people can visit Uncommon's online home and add favorite things, read prompt replies, and be introduced to other friendly faces.

The final two weeks were intense as these kind and talented people sacrificed sleep and weekends, but what a thrill it's been to see the community slowly gathering on the front porch.

We also mailed envelopes to each founding member, the same envelope that anyone who joins receives. Inside is an invite card to share a year of Uncommon with a friend. After so much time in pixels and code, it's great fun to switch to the tangible world of stamps and ink.

So far, we've heard some wonderful thoughts about the site, as well as important things to improve. We'll make more refinements and then open the doors to everyone. We're unbelievably excited to share it with you.

The second milestone is what you're reading right now, the 100th dispatch!

The time and attention you've given these lengthy emails is a gift, and I am amazed again and again by your thoughtful replies (nearly 900 now). What a privilege it has been to meet and talk with so many of you. Your honest words and genuine hospitality have knitted this community together in a very special way.

We'll rest here for a bit and drink in the scenery, then continue the climb. There are campfires to share, paths to stumble upon, and beautiful views to appreciate. All are welcome, and everyone has a part to play.


Last week's dispatch asked, On a dark and stormy night, do you run to the window or pull the covers over your head?

Chandley wrote:

I just moved to Belize about two weeks ago....It's the rainy season here.  Storms have become a part of my everyday life. I love them, I've always been fascinated by them, but these are tropical rain forest storms. I've never seen anything like it. They mostly come at night, so I lie in my bed with the windows open and watch. And I listen.... to the rain tinkling, then drumming, then pounding on the tin roof like an incessant toddler who must have my attention RIGHT NOW.

Lara wrote:

A dark and stormy night is one of my favorite things in the world. I love nothing more than curling up in bed all toasty and warm and falling asleep with the rain pattering on the roof and thunder crashing around me, knowing that I'm safe inside.<br><br>That said, it is also an awesome opportunity for some great photos, so sometimes it really does pay to hang out at the window waiting to catch a flash of lightning. A great reminder of just how small a part of the natural world we really are.

Adam wrote:

On a dark and stormy night, I don't stop at the window. I go outside.

Elizabeth wrote:

My vote is to run outside (on the covered porch) to see the storm. I might be afraid of being struck by lightning, but I also want to be as close to the action as is safely possible. What a rush!

Erin wrote:

Growing up/living in Los Angeles, storms have always been a rarity. Sure, we get some torrential downpour every once in a while during "winter," but rarely any thunder or lightning. However, I spent many summers in Maine and many years there'd be a thunderstorm or two and it would rattle our tiny little cottage. I loved it. I still do. There's something exciting yet relaxing about the tremendous booms of thunder and bright flashes of lightning with the steady patter of rain on the roof. I love just wrapping up in a blanket and watching the sky, curious to see how much bigger and brighter each peal of thunder and lightning will be. I like how small it makes me feel.

Adam wrote:

I'm most certainly a "run to the window" or even a "step out onto the porch" kind of a storm person. There's something about a storm that is so alluring. We can't create it, control it, reproduce it. It's utterly "other" from us as humans and I want to fully appreciate and experience creation whenever I have the chance - not just storms, but mountains, oceans, animals ... on and on the list goes. It would feel almost irreverent to pass up a chance to take in the wonder of creation, especially when storms are temporary when compared to the more permanent fixtures of nature. Though, sometimes, the best reverence we can offer a storm is to drift off to sleep with the sound of a night-long downpour. When it comes to language, there are some great storm-related terms to work into your vernacular as well - frog strangler, gully washer, drought buster, etc. All of that said, having lived in Oklahoma for four years now, I've witnessed from an uncomfortable proximity the danger and devastation that can result from the relentless, indiscriminate forces of an F5 tornado. It's not something to take lightly, fetishize, or dismiss altogether. With all due respect, I'll continue to watch from the windows or the porch with respect and deference to its potential havoc.

Marina wrote:

Run to the window!  Or, better yet, to my balcony with my camera. I live right beside a large, warm lake which often produces very localized and very unique storms. The opportunities for amazing shots are limitless. A couple of weeks ago, we had cloud lightening so bright and continuous, it looked like July 4th fireworks.

Marcus wrote:

I love stormy nights. I love to hear heavy rain on the windows and be indoors with a book. I love to fall asleep with the patter from rain drops, either on the windows or if I'm in nature sleeping in a tent.

Carie wrote:

I run to the window! I love watching rain and lightning and hail storms and big gusts of wind. But it's a lot more fun if I'm in good company.

Ryan wrote:

I love storms. As I write this, I have just finished sitting through one, which started while I was shaving. I had planned to jump straight into the labors of the day, but after I put down the razor I postponed my work for a few minutes and sat in front of the picture window that looks out over the street behind us. I gazed out at the shivering leaves and watched a few hailstones bounce off the porch roof, then lay back and just listened for a while. Something about the chaos outside soothed and ordered my mind, and when I got up again, I felt ready to conquer the much lesser chaos of my accumulated paperwork.

Sara wrote:

I like watching storms from inside, preferably looking up occasionally from an engaging book. My husband and his dad tell an apocryphal tale about the time they played tennis in the eye of a hurricane.

Brad wrote:

Texas thunderstorms are still captivating to me, having grown up in a place that almost never saw thunder or lightning. I will usually run to the window and marvel at the intensity with which the rain is falling or the seemingly furious lightning strikes nearby. It's truly awesome, in an original sense of that word.

Uncommon reads

When It's Bad to Have Good Choices by Maria Konnikova:

What changes as we move from the scarcity of wartime Warsaw to the abundance of the First World isn’t the nature of the anxiety, it’s just the nature and significance of the choice itself. In one case, it seems heart-wrenching; in the other, trivial. Our brains, though, don’t make those kinds of value judgments: to them, a difficult choice is a difficult choice. And difficult choices mean anxiety.

The Silence of The Past Speaks Loudest to Our Presence by Kendall Ruth:

I have to wonder, though, if the nostalgic cries for less complicated times are, at their heart, longings for more presence and human touch. We race forward at faster speeds into a future that has plenty to be amazed at and pursued. And all along the way, we ache for faces and to be seen by those sitting next to us, bumping along the road to a destination that still takes plenty of time to get there.

Putting Thought Into Things by Oliver Reichenstein:

We’d like to believe we’re too smart to think. Thinking is stressful. While stereotypes click together sweetly, thinking comes in bitter flavors. We recur to clichés rather than reflection, because they make us wise without listening, bright without reasoning, and smart without taking the risk of being imprecise, boring, annoying, wrong.

The problem with OKCupid is the problem with the social web by Tim Carmody:

And in this respect, OKCupid's Christian Rudder and the brigade of "and this surprises you?" cynics are right: this is what everybody does. This is the way the internet works now. (Too much of it, anyway.)

Your turn

From feet to flight, what is your favorite form of transportation?