Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Riders on the Storm
For me last night's storm wasn't so real. Just a series of low, menacing rumbles and flashes that turn the grass into a sheet of suddenly sodden and ghastly whiteness. And tonight's posting isn't original. It's the posting I made last night on Brits in the USA.
There are heavy clouds, rolling like ironclads over the estuary where the ironclads first fired in anger. I never really got used to American storms that can bring devastating winds and tornadoes that can rip apart lives.
Storm at home were more of a rarity. When I grew up they were a form of entertainment. We'd huddle by the window and watch them turn the sky purple and count the seconds between the flash and the rumble. Although there were tales of lightening strikes just as there were craggy old trees in the forest, bereft of all life, that bore testimony to the ferocity of the storm, it was all so distant from our window.
Here it's not so predictable. Two years ago a twister touched down near the house ripping down trees and power lines across the street and wiping out the village choked with antique shops a mile down the road. And I have a recurring dream that I toil across a landscape of beaten down cornfields, unremittingly flat and terrible where a black sky is painted over the drifting blue air.
Then I see it, the evil shaped funnel cloud, marching across the margins of a field, tearing aside trees like matchstick soldiers. Like the all seeing eye of Mordor it is wrapped up in its wicked intent and spies me isolated in a field. I usually wake as it veers in my direction.
This sense of foreboding is unfortunate because there's something exhilarating about storms, about the way they make the trees dance and suck the heaviness from the lead infused air. One night back in Wales when we were younger and more foolish we went out on a night of high winds when the sky was a screaming symphony full of razor edged clouds. Richard, Mark, Brian and myself walked along the banks of the Taff as the waters rose and trees snapped around us and the moon slipped in and out of the clouds like a reveller at a jig.
The howling wind and the falling trees infused us with a sense of delirium and and excitement. If we could duck and dive and dodge fast falling death and the fleet flowing river there was surely nothing we couldn't do. We were alone in the chaotic wilderness but we mastered the stormy night and walked into the early hours until we saw the shuttered tower of Llandaff Cathedral wrapped in the pale strands of dawn.
We could do anything but did we? Did we really write? Did any of us write? Instead we forgot about the storm and committed our lives to interminable meetings in airless offices, compliant executioners in the death of the human soul.
A Thunderstorm by Archibald Lampman
A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge,
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven's height,
With the long roar of elm-trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.