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Mack Williams: Florence thoughts

Mack Williams

Just a few days prior to Hurricane Florence’s landfall, my landlord’s tree trimming (a “cutting down” kind of trimming) of a tall tree adjacent my apartment could be seen as a harbinger of the storm, just as legitimate a storm harbinger as that of fleeing birds.
The tree was downed and divided by “tree men” (not Druids) in a most methodically “Prussian” manner, some of the Doric-sized slices given to a local man “slicing” them further with his chain saw to later on provide Winter heat for his family. In him could be seen man’s superiority to Mother Nature (or rather, “other Nature”), as Nature would have wasted them through the “fire” of decomposition.
And the meticulously cut limbs carted away were definitely preferable to “break-sharpened” limbs later piercing the roof!
Radio and TV reports of the “bottled water frenzy” made me head to Walmart, that “secular solace” in times of impending natural catastrophe.
With my love of hats and helmets and the impending meteorological danger, into Walmart I went, wearing my repro British Tommy helmet of World War I (and World War II, and “Civil Defense” headgear of the Cold War). It’s a wonder that just the sight of me didn’t start a panic in the aisles.
At Walmart, the only water left was “peach, grape, and strawberry,” decadent versions of that “pristinely” sung about in the old West as: “Cool, clear, water (waaaater).”
In the canned meat aisle, only the cans requiring can openers remained. The “pop-top” potted meat, Beanie Weenies, and “VYEEENYAS” had long departed the shelves.
I made a Petsmart run to get our museum’s snake a couple of frozen mice to see him through the week. Although some of the shelves at the grocery store had been emptied of bread, eggs and milk, I was glad to see there were still shelves full of frozen mice at Petsmart.
Driving back home, I saw those tall skinny weeds along the road which always remind me of something growing in the Sargasso Sea. I wondered if the hurricane waters would “rise to the occasion” and make them truly aquatic (for a while).
When I awoke the next morning, and prior to putting on my contacts, I looked out my window and saw a bush strangely “pulsating” in and out. After putting on my contacts, it “pulsated” normally, back and forth in the wind.
The little rain ditch made where the rain comes off the roof was full of water, but not quite enough to cover the taller weeds within; so the whole resembled a fish bowl’s plants which had overgrown their bowl.
I saw a black, moldering leaf, snatched away by the wind from its former “hiding place,” where unseen, it had been peacefully rotting away. I then thought about a news story of several years ago, complete with picture of a coffin unearthed by a flood and sent floating down a river. It was one of those old-fashioned coffins, with glass window over the face of the long deceased, and I wondered at that time that if I were to look within, my gaze might be met with a “grin” from what remained.
Looking out my glass sliding doors, I saw one tree limb which the wind had turned into an “open fracture,” leafy “flesh” pulled away, exposing “skeletal” and “circulatory” system (in plants, both the same). The break-sharpened wood seemed set to stab the sky. In a brief pause in the wind, flaps of green, leafy flesh slipped back in seeming attempt to cover the break.
Hurricane Florence’s “slug speed” gave the wind and rain an “ad infinitum” quality. For days, I saw all of the variations of gray and white (like Ansell Adams’ work) represented in the continually passing cloud bands. Cotton white, white, dirty white, dirty gray, gray, dark gray, almost black, and blue passed overhead.
But the final blue one proved not to be a cloud.

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