This heart yearns for the salt of unsmelt air, unswept thunderstorms...
October 4, 2019 9:29 PM   Subscribe

I miss plains rain. I no longer have a sense of smell but I sure do remember that wonderful, sharp, pungent smell of rain before it hits, it has an electric smell to it somehow -- I loved it. You smell that and unless you've got an umbrella you're going to get wet. And: the way that trees blow, and turn their leaves to show the whites on the bottom of them, against a sky that's deepening gray, or, even better, that scary, tornado looking green sky that comes on when there's a *really* good storm on us. And it knows exactly how to rain there, too, when it wants, long and pounding and lightning and thunder. No A/C in houses when I was a kid, the windows open except for the screens but you're hearing that storm come in and you get up, go out onto the back porch, which was covered, and sit out in that storm, or some of it, and be happy to do so. Maybe a sibling show up, too, and/or maybe a parent, nobody says much, just sitting on the swing, or in one of those metal rocking chairs. Maybe the dog, wanting in on the fun.

Some favorite words about rain up there, put into Huckleberry Finn's mouth by Mark Twain:
Pretty soon it darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale underside of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow along and set the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest—FST! it was as bright as glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels down stairs—where it's long stairs and they bounce a good deal, you know.

Clemons. God, what a writer --- he put six different dialects into that book, delineated them in the forward, so the reader wouldn't wonder why all of the differences and/or think Twain a poor writer, when in fact he was laying it out just as he heard it, living there. David Foster Wallace wrote well about it also, his essay about playing tennis with a friend as one of those green sky storms came and of a sudden he's being blown through the air, past the tennis net, crashed into the fence. Wallace had a good sense of Illinois in general, how there's nothing from the Rocky Mountains on east and how those storms come roaring through, path of least resistance, he wrote of miles and miles and miles of corn. I've taken the train a few times, round-trip Austin-Chicago, and coming south down Illinois on a summer afternoon, standing at the window I've opened in the area where the cars connect to one another -- it's really pleasurable. It's loud, clickety-clack, and if a conductor comes through he might give me some shit but mostly not -- it's fun standing at the window, and no one's getting hurt. I know just about where people will be more prone to be Cardinals fans rather than Cubs fans -- I have cousins in Peoria who have married into red-hatted families, and always I have worried after their mental health, I have reached out to them, offering counsel, compassion, Cubs hats.

Last. Those turbines, there's flocks of them in West Texas, I've driven by them, annoyed -- they didn't consult me; I'd have told them to put those things up in Oklahoma, where everything is trashy anyways -- so I've driven by them probably 20 years now, give or take. But never close to them, always they're off some in the distance. Last time I was in Illinois I found that they've planted those things like ugly white flowers all over western part of the state, and they are *close* to the roads, hell, right in the heart of some towns there. And only then did I get a sense of the scale of those things -- they're huge. My brother and I are both tall guys, nothing would do for me but we had to get right next to one of those things, and we did, drove right up to it, and we looked like ants, my pickup a tiny white toy. Reminded me of going to Prudential building, tallest building downtown Chicago @ 40 stories when I was a kid, and looking down, asking my father about the toy cars -- I really had trouble squaring that, they looked like toys to my eyes, 58 years gone by. It was fun to get next to one of those turbines, crank my neck back, get their measure. Know how large they are gives me the scale of those storms in that vid -- yikes.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:23 AM on October 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

Beautiful. Thank you.
posted by straight at 6:28 AM on October 5, 2019

That shot around 2:30 of the clouds rolling away and revealing a starry sky...
posted by martin q blank at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2019

Beautiful, but, frankly, too choreographed for my tastes.

I'm 100% on board with the wide-open plains aesthetic, sweeping horizons, wind turbines, cloudscapes, the whole business. But the lightning strikes timed to the soundtrack seem... borderline cheesy? My favorite moments of storm watching involve stepping back to focus on the whole sky, never knowing when the next bolt will drop. Watching them in rhythm feels unnatural.

Loved at 2:45, a streaking bird getting the heck out of dodge. To me, that's watching a storm.
Seeing how the storm stirs up the random, unpredictable -- even amidst seemingly wide-open, barren spaces. Dramatic contrasts in lighting. Tempestuous clouds giving way to a placid, starry sky. I love all of it, but struggle to see past the lightning-on-cue.
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

But the lightning strikes timed to the soundtrack seem...

like WHAT IF: Thor got really into Epic Music?
posted by straight at 1:54 PM on October 5, 2019


I'm with dancestoblue . I have always loved that midwestern storm when it rolls across the flatness.
posted by doctornemo at 4:44 PM on October 5, 2019

But the lightning strikes timed to the soundtrack seem...

Best when watched in a silent dark room.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:12 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

That's how I want to go out. Just, BAM!, atomized with the one of the biggest fuckin' lightning bolts the planet's ever seen.

Until then, 'wonder if my local KFC's gotten donut/chicken monstrosities, yet.
posted by OldAndTired at 10:07 PM on October 6, 2019

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