It happened years ago, on a perfect summer day as I rode my bike along a country road. The McKenzie River gleamed in the sun next to me, carving a lazy route through the Willamette Valley, the wind was light, and traffic, fortunately, was lighter still. I passed an elderly couple gathering vegetables in their garden—she did the choosing, he carried the bucket—and as they waved to me I began dreaming.
I’m sure of only one thing—that my absence lasted mere seconds—but in that short interval I saw a trio of Indians sitting on horses in the near distance, surrounded by tall wind-whipped grasses. They were regal statues and there was no sound except the wind, until a voice broke in. “What are you doing out there?” My perception was that this voice came from an automobile, which I’d stepped from in order to see—what? I became aware of a line of black storm clouds hugging the distant horizon, and turned an ear into the wind. The horsemen continued sitting impassively, waiting. Again, the impatient voice intruded: “What are you doing?” Straining to hear above the strengthening wind, I turned to hiss at the unseen questioner: “I’m listening for thunder!” And so the dream ended, as I looked down at the passing pavement and (gratefully) the white shoulder line I hadn’t crossed.
I coasted for a ways, then, and I didn’t think too long before the meaning of the dream came to me. I’ve kept it in mind since that warm afternoon, even as I’m not always successful in implementing it. Listening for thunder is trying to go a bit farther in what we do, or think, to discern something that isn’t readily obvious but is undoubtedly worth the effort. We may learn amazing things when we ignore life’s noisy distractions, put our ears into the wind, and simply listen.