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Mack Williams: Hot summer thoughts

The other day, I went to Lowe’s to buy a couple of potted plants merely for the purpose of providing some part-time shade for my sundews. Sundews are carnivorous (or rather, insectivorous) plants which trap and partially digest insects with the “flypaper” modus operandi, using sticky tentacles which can slowly cluster around a hapless insect to hold in place for a bath of digestive juices. (In addition to growing carnivorous plants, my favorite actor, of course, is Peter Lorre.)

Just now, this “eaten alive” stuff reminds me of the time I saw “The Angry Red Planet” (1959) at Salisbury’s Capitol Theater in 1960. In one scene, an astronaut was swallowed by a giant, transparent amoeba and appeared to be “fading in and out,” before fading to nothing (such were some of the special effects back then).

Getting back to Lowe’s, it was extremely hot and humid on my way there. The clouds had mounted to “Everest-like” proportions, each of the “clumpings” having progressed to the classic thunderstorm “anvil” shape.

Just the day before, a number of these anvils had fallen, striking each other on the way down, causing “sparks” and “reverberations of sparks” for miles around.

Judging from that day’s resultant downpour, it seemed to me as if the dark pre-storm clouds didn’t represent just water vapor on its way to becoming rain; but instead, a full-fledged stream already formed in the heavens, ready to do what all streams do: run downhill.

During that storm, the wind was so strong that it surprisingly bent even the thickest limbs of one nearby tree in one direction and downward, achieving a “bonsai” and “bristlecone pine” wind-swept effect.

Each tower of clouds was a piled-up, “colossus of the sky,” assembled with seeming stacking of individual building blocks, reminding me of the “segmented” remains of Egypt’s “Colossi of Memnon.”

Looking at the “cloud skyscrapers” all around the horizon made me think the little patch of gray nimbus cloud above was possibly much more than what it seemed. I thought of the possibility of a relatively narrow (compared to its height) vertically vast “horror of the troposphere” roiling above the seemingly quiet patch of gray mist centered above my head.

When I arrived at Lowe’s and exited my car, a cool breeze hit me. This wind wasn’t smooth, but seemingly made up of linked bursts of wind. I thought back to the old Cold War nuclear tests, with their pressure waves and generated winds moving outward from ground zero. I decided that the wind I felt in Lowe’s parking lot had its origin in “meteorological explosions” miles away.

I found just the right little potted bush, with little limbs splayed outward. When placed strategically, it would provide my sundews with only filtered sunlight, not the sun’s unwavering “stare.”

The small bush was my front seat passenger as I drove with my windows down, since the air-conditioning was on the blink.

The car’s generated wind got a hold of one of the leafy branches, making it prescribe a wild, out-of-control, circular motion, almost in the manner of a whirligig. (It wasn’t totally out-of-control, as the branch did remain attached, and the plant did remain in the car.)

I suddenly thought of the sight of dogs hanging their heads out of car windows on a hot day, their tongues “lolling” about in the wind.

This seemingly “animal-like” behavior in a plant made me think about that mistily distant, eons-ago, evolutionary “branching” time, when animals and plants went their separate ways.

And on that sweltering day, while driving and thinking about the little potted bush’s apparent animal-like behavior, “vice-versa” suddenly came into play; and I imagined myself beginning to wilt.

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