Mack Williams: Tsunami from the sky
Recently, there was one week of almost solid rain (but still liquid).
There seemed to be no gradual crescendo, but instead the sforzando of a “gusher” (in the opposite direction of that which gushers usually go).
I imagined each cloud containing a filled bathtub of the old “lion’s paw variety” that I grew up with on the Old Concord Road. The “plugs” in these water-holding “tubs of the troposhpere” had been ignored, and their water had spilled in buckets (just now, I think of Mickey Mouse’s “sorcering” days).
Sometimes, during all of this, I started to wonder if God had rescinded his promise, and the great “bow in the heavens” had been broken ( the way Cochise used to snap that arrow shaft at the beginning trailer of each episode of TV’s “Broken Arrow”).
The area out my back door had become so swampy that for several nights in a row I heard the croaking of what sounded like a very large frog! In the song, “Wildfire,” the lyrics ominously state: “There’s been a hoot owl howling now by my window for six nights in a row.” What is the portent of a frog repeatedly croaking just outside the threshold of my door? (Answer: He’s looking for a female frog, not me).
The humidity was up so much that a multitude of raindrops remained on the outside of my kitchen window, not given the chance to complete the water cycle by evaporating back into the sky. Looking through them all a step back, I got a glimpse of how an insect must see the world through its compound eyes, consisting of many lenses.
Over the course of these several monstrously rainy days, a bucket out back had been so repeatedly filled and had repeatedly overflowed with rain water, that it had become “the rain gauge from Hell,” or what the late Saddam might have called: “The mother of all rain gauges!”
The Inuit have different words for snow textures, but this rain’s difference was only in amount and repetitiveness.
The wind, heretofore purely gaseous, seemed to have become so rain-filled as to be a viscous, flowing stream, but still freer than stream-bed bound.
As the rain fell harder, its sound’s pitch ascended the scale, a liquid “do-re-mi” with a little bit of a Lloyd Bridges “Seahunt” gurgle as it exited the gutter.
The crescendos and decrescendos eventually wound up as a lowly “squishing” sound made by my stepping onto the water-filled, spongy turf.
Inside this world of water, atmosphere, and occasional lightning, I thought of the Miller-Urey Experiment at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, where a water and gas filled globe was charged with electricity to produce life’s building blocks, amino acids. Gosh, if some new life form gets “sparked” now, it’s got a heckuvah lot of catching up to do with the rest of us!
Watching the rain pouring off the corner of my apartment, it seemed that “precipitation” had been overcome by “pouring.” The Morton Salt Company’s theme had lost all ties to salt, becoming wholly “rain oriented.”
During that week, the determination of time by sunlight and shadow progression seemed replaced by time measured by the progression of showers.
The seemingly glass-full-sized drops pouring off of the roof onto the paved deck sounded deeper on the musical scale than the higher-pitched, brushed-snare-drum sound coming from rainfall falling in the grass.
Later, the closer-to-ground, puffy-white clouds of Summer were lit by a ray of sunlight making it through a tiny opening in the clouds (through the eye of this “needle” was clear passage).
Those white puffs were now set against a homogeneous gray background, instead of the usual equally homogeneous blue. It was as if the empty black of space had become a moisture-filled “nimbus-gray,” and as absorbent as a paper towel, taking up that for which the ground and atmosphere had no more room.