Here Thar Be Monsters!

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5.10.13

The Storm Front

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Some time back, I waxed poetic about Texas northers as a metaphor for world events.

Texas northers are like nothing I've experienced anywhere else.  You can see the storms approaching for hours.  The sky bifurcates, with a part being hot, humid and sunny, and the other part being black as night with a greenish cast and ominous lightning flashing in all directions.

You can tell they are coming in a hundred different ways.  Cows in the field will all line up with their hind ends pointing in the direction of the approaching storm.  The cow flies, normally heavy on a hot Texan summer afternoon, suddenly look like shimmering blankets on the backs of the cattle.

The air gets deathly still and heavy.  It's like trying to take a deep breath in a Turkish sauna.  It is so thick and hot and laden with steam that it fills your lungs before you can take a deep draught of it.  Walking through it is like pushing yourself through cream of mushroom soup with the heavy smell of mold and mildew laced into it, and the humidity is so high that you sweat profusely just sitting on the porch.

At some point, the storm line appears on the horizon, looking like Sauron's evil spreading over Middle Earth.  The rain is so heavy, it forms a solid curtain of silver gray that the eye can not pierce.  The line of clouds itself is so straight you could draw a surveyor's bead from it: in the leading edge are low, smooth clouds that curl down in the bow shock, and behind them are towering thunderheads that seem to stretch to Heaven itself.  Lightning leaps across the heads then stabs down at the Earth, momentarily casting a strange blue light over those things which have been engulfed by the advancing drapery of doom.

Far across the endless Texas horizon, you can see the fields of grain bow down to the relentless fury.  The line is so sharp that if you could stop the storm for a moment, it would be possible to stand half in and half out of it.

That line of subdued grain comes toward you in a way that seems both slow and plodding and blindingly fast.  Because of the vast views, you can watch the storm line come across miles of sorghum and corn. Now you catch a whiff of pungent wet Earth - the smell of hot, dry soil suddenly doused with unbelievable amounts of ice water.

Occasionally, at the leading edge, a cloud will curl back on itself, and within moments a tornado has formed. All around its tip, crops are flying up in a cloud of debris, whipping around the sky in a furious parade of destruction.  Just as suddenly, the tornado dissipates and the plants float, almost lazily, back down to the ground.

One minute, the storm seems miles away - hardly a threat.  The next, the line of doom is marching across your fields towards the house.  The cows seem to freeze in place, bracing for the impact.  The hot still air kicks up into a slight breeze, then turning to a furious cold wind.  The temperature drops ten degrees in seconds.

And the rain...

A moment ago, you thought you had time to refill your glass of lemonade.  Now your only thought is to find a wall against the driving rain.  The wind carries the drops sideways, first this way, then that.  Sometimes, you see gravity itself shut down as the drops fall upward for the briefest of moments.

The sky turns the most hideous shade of yellow-green as you dash for the tin barn to escape Nature's wrath.  Inside the barn, the noise is deafening, as hail pelts the tin.  Through the doorway, you watch as pearls fall from the sky and pile up like manna.  You shiver from the sudden cold and the good dousing you got running the few short feet to shelter.

Outside, it seems as if the world is ending.  At noon, the sky is blacker than midnight.  Through the various doors and windows of the barn, the rain seems to fall a different way in every direction - from the east over there, from the west over there, and on the north windows, torrents so heavy as to block the view past the panes.  By the south door, a fan of dampness spreads out on the cement floor as the mist swirls in the opening and settles down.

Inside your gut, the feeling is overwhelming.  You are hit with a sudden burst of fear and excitement, like a case of butterflies on steroids.  You have a powerful urge to run in circles and whoop and holler, though you have no clue why.  The air itself is charged - even the chickens out back are raising a furious racket, with roosters crowing and the hens clucking like Life itself depends on it.

Then, as suddenly as it began, the rain slows to a gentle drizzle.  The wind dies to a calm fall breeze.  The animals quiet down and that feeling of boiling emotion in the pit of your stomach ebbs away.  The pearls of hail have already started to melt and the clouds slowly loosen their choke-hold on the sunlight.  Green gives way to black, which parts to blue.

When you emerge from the barn, the world seems renewed, fresh, clean.  Even the dirt seems less dirty (though one step into the red Texas mud will ruin that illusion).  The sky appears scrubbed clean and the air itself has an effervescent quality, like the molecules themselves are sparkling.

In the fields, the plants are all bowed in the same direction, as if a giant foot had trampled them.  Look closely and you see a dozen fountains of dirt as the field creatures kick residue from their homes.  The grasshoppers, silent before the storm, are now clacking like crazy in all directions.  Across the fields, a tenuous cloud of insects forms just over the tops of the plants as they stretch to the Sun to dry their wings.

Here we are...

We see the storm approaching across the fields.  We've known for a long time it was coming.  The air is just starting to stir and all the signs are of impending cataclysm.  It's time to run to the barn.  The storm is here.  The fear and panic will start to rise shortly.  The animals, whose memories are dangerously short, will give in to the fear, but we have seen this before and can calm that simmering kettle of emotions in our bellies so that we are able to marvel at the power of Nature, rather than flee the temporary maelstrom around us.

The sky is turning, the wind picking up, the lightning leaping all around.  The storm is here.  It will pass, of course, but we must go through to enjoy what's behind it.

We've seen this coming from a long way off.  We saw the line of clouds, the angry tornadoes, the wall of rain.  We've made our preparations as best we can and taken shelter in the barn.  Nothing left to do but marvel at the dangerous beauty of what we call Life.  Many will be hurt, some will die.  There is no accounting for the seeming randomness of Universe.  Sometimes the rain falls up.

All is as it should be.