Thursday, November 15, 2012

Part IV: Ridin' the Storm Out *

* Or:...Read It Like Someone Typed It Out By Hand

Back on the river, swirling high currents swept the thunderheads out of the sky like minor actors exiting before the stars show up onstage.  For thirty minutes a hot hush hung....

Finally, from the northwest, an arched crescent of blue-dun cloud, sky-wide, rolled hugely high and fast down at us, the atmosphere clear before it and clear behind.  Not having prognosticated worth a damn, I scuttled for the flatter shore and had the tent up lopsided but solid under a half-dead elm by the time the first big slam of cold hit, with a sweep of leaves and sand and the fresh uplift of body and spirit, probably barometric, that they always carry even when you don't want them.

Unuplifited, the pup kept jumping back into the canoe with the apparent faint hope that if we continued our float, all that bluster would cease.  He got sand on my shotgun, and I had to switch him before he would face the fact of our staying there.  Working, carrying gear from where the canoe was moored unhandily between a cutaway bank and submerged willows, then chopping a thick branch of the elm into chunks for a fire, I watched the sky.

From the southeast, rearing to meet the blue-dun cloud's charge, a white roll of exactly similar shape moved up.  In the dusk, when I'd finished setting up and was squatting in the tent opening by a good fire, they met with thunder and the last red tints of sundown flame-edged their fight....

Big drops of rain spatted down diagonally through the violent air, and the old elm in the fire hissed and spewed and stank and radiated; lightning took over the sun's work and made the early night for a time flickeringly white, and loud with thunder.

It was a fine show.  Out, natural drama big and little sops up much of that interest that in towns we daily expend upon one another's small nobilities and bastardlinesses, and for me no surer proof of our unchanging animality exists than the response we give to storms.  There is nothing rational about it.  A man is a fool to welcome bluster and wet and cold, and yet he often does, and even indoors he is seldom indifferent to their coming.  It is hard for him to talk about them without using the old personifications which, they say, first spawned theology; it is hard to write about them without leaning on the insights of poets who, sometimes self-consciously, have prized violence in nature.  Maybe bare-nerved Shelley:

...Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to
which this dosing night
Will be the dome of a vast
Vaulted with all thy
congregated might
Of vapours, from whose
solid atmosphere
Black, rain, and fire, and
hail, will burst, ...

Not west the wind in Texas, though, but north..."Nothing but a bob-wire fence..." 

Or maybe just "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!"  There was no self-conscious prizing of violence in that - he prized everything.

I baked a slab of biscuit bread, dry and toast-tasting, beside the fire, ate it with thick slices of broiled bacon, and went to bed.  The rain thickened, then slacked, then came down again in floods; the night crackled and roared with change and iron cold.  Drunk with coziness, the pup wallowed beside me and groaned, and I remember wondering, before I slept, a little more about the relation of storms to man .... If, being animal, we ring like guitar strings to nature's furies, what hope can there be for our ultimate, planned peacefulness?

But night questions don't have answers 

Goodbye to a River, pp. 116 - 120.


That's all until Spring. 

Send your money in to Josh at 4418 Wayland Dr., 37215.  Best $150 you'll ever spend.