Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Thunderstorms


For me tonight'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.

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.

18 comments:

  1. Thunder and lightening storms can be quite beautiful to watch from the safety of one's home. Twisters however are serious reminder that Mother Nature is not to be messed with.

    I love your reference to writing and the death of the human soul.

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  2. Yeah, tornadoes around here tend to skip. The lay of the land makes them unpredictable and stuff. I read this and all those big words and then I was going to make some high brow literary reference to Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse' and then I remembered...I'm lazy aaaaand I've never read it. But you do write really well.

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  3. Reading your blog is like reading a novel. You're going to write a novel, right? You should.

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  4. PS. If you do find yourself in a twister, I hope it takes you to Oz for a bit. I would love to read your take on the place.

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  5. Most of this post reads like a short story - great talent for description. I don't think you have tornados in the UK, do you?

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  6. You describe it all so well, and I love that poem.

    Pearl

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  7. I love the poem. And I enjoyed your description of the thunderstorms. Storms are not so rare on my part of the world. I love the rain but when it pours for a month, it's a different story.

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  8. Well done with this, David. Seriously, this was a delight to read. :-)

    My favorite part:
    "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."

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  9. And we've got the cheek to moan about the weather in the UK.

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  10. Helluva of a post David. Love the moon revelling at a jig.

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  11. I love storms, but ours are more like the one you describe in Wales, though I never could have expressed it so well. Sue

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  12. Only you can make storms sound good. Excellent post! I enjoyed reading this.

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  13. I heard last week on the news that Florida is known to be the major state for lightning, and men more often die in them than women. I guess that means men don't care as much about the warnings when boating and golfing.

    I enjoyed the read.

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  14. So sad I can't come and visit as much as I used to, but when I do there is always such a treat awaiting me. You have a way of arranging words that I truly envy. x

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  15. The ending made me sad, especially since I love storms. But it's a great ending nonetheless.

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  16. thanx Lidia, you are too kind empress. It sometimes feels that way. thanx Anna - I have tried to read To the Lighthouse but I keep putting it down. Nice thought re Oz, Jennifer but it would probably kill me; would like to write a novel very much. Time and all. cheers Oilfield. Hey Li - not many, they have the occasional freaky one. thanx Pearl. I know Maria - have heard it can rain for quite some time. cheers Daisy, it was fun to write. British weather can be tame in comparison, Ryan. Glad you liked it Tim - well you probably have a few extremes Sue. cheers Marnie. I need to catch up with your blog too. thanks Jacqueline, maybe storms are sexist. well it's always good when you do, Frig - must visit yours - thanks Shopgirl.

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