Mack Williams: Some ‘stormy’ thoughts

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2016

I had heard a tropical storm was on the way, but when finally paying attention to its name, I thought the “TV people” had committed a misspelling. Used to seeing grammatical errors in print and online, I thought “Hermine” should be “Hermionie,” as in “Gingold.” (Now that would be some hurricane!) The weatherman’s pronunciation of it then cued me into the fact that instead of the TV station’s misspelling, I had committed a “miss-thinking.”

I woke up to a cool respite from the “hothouse” weather which had made this summer miserable (especially with my car’s air conditioner on the fritz).

A wind, just barely a couple notches above “gentle,” pervaded the day, night and following day.

The wild “dancing” of leaves and limbs seemed greatly out of proportion to the draft I was feeling; but then, they are just leaves, while I am a “13-stone” creature.

Those leaves, much as canvas on ship’s rigging, caught the wind and made the branches dance, too. Leafless twigs and limbs, barren silhouettes against the sky with no “sail” to unfurl, remained still.

Every now and then, the wind kicked up faster, then resumed that prior, lower “constant,” its “non-homogeneity” revealed by swifter “curds” in the mix.

Since the enjoyable breeze was due to the ever-slightest glancing blow (pun, without apology) from a tropical storm, its “sustained winds” lasted much longer than those of summer storms.

I thought back to the early 1960s when one of my red-eared slider turtles crawled out of its bowl during several days of steady rain and wind from a tropical storm passing through. He was found inside the house; but I wonder if all that wind and rain outside made him feel flooding was in order, and that he might be able join his other reptile “buddies” (some who, despite “leglessness,”swim flood waters quite well).

Another hurricane-tropical storm memory was of Hurricane Abby in the first week of June, 1968. Its tropical storm remnants became the reason Pastor Floyd W. Bost and Saint Paul’s Luther League experienced steady wind and rain while staying at Sunbeam Lodge, the sun reappearing on our last day there.

When my late wife Diane, daughter Rachel and I visited Disneyworld in 1983, one memorable attraction was the Tiki Room, with its animatronic birds of “Paradise,” singing their song, “Tiki Room” (song: “Where the birds sing words and the flowers bloom, in the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tikki Room!”). In the Tiki Room was the statue of the Caribbean Indian god “Hurican,” (their god of evil, derived from the Mayan god of wind, storm and fire “Huracan”). During a simulated storm there, Hurican’s eyes turned fiery red.

During the passage of Hurricane Hugo through the Old North State in 1989, while pretty much every school system closed, the superintendent of the county in which I was living at the time decided to keep his system open but later changed his mind, sending the buses home when winds and rain were at peak. Not long afterward, his contract was not renewed. I guess the board of education didn’t appreciate the fact that during Hurricane Hugo, their school superintendent remained too much an “island of calm” surrounded by a “sea of justifiable concern.” (In keeping with the present subject matter, instead of “Island of calm,” I should probably say, “eye of calm.”)

I remember the “bands” of Hugo passing overhead, and in my most long-distance gaze, I imagined I could detect their curvature at horizon’s edge. (One would have to be almost at “hurricane height” to see the earth’s curve.)

When hurricane Gaston came through in 2004, I still performed my constitutional country walk as before. The wind was exhilarating; and the tropical humidity was such that I walked shirtless (but with pants). I would not walk shirtless today, as God in his great benevolent omniscience knew what he was doing when he created men’s shirts. (This statement is not theologically supported.)

Wrapping up these hurricane-tropical storm thoughts, I must mention the Facebook post from my cousin, Trish Garrison Mulloy, in which she stated she swam out into tropical storm Hermine (thankfully, returning).

Upon reading Trish’s cheery, courageous note, I realized when it comes to such storms, the “devotees” are greatly outnumbered by the “dilettantes.” Most of us are like the captain of the H.M.S. Pinafore who, when the breezes REALLY, REALLY blow, “generally go below.”

And as far as getting wet is concerned, some of us are like Margaret Hamilton, while others are like Esther Williams.

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