Sunday, October 17, 2010
Exercise #1: The Reluctant I
From the hill above the dry creek bed I see a cloud of dust fast approaching the town and growing ever larger as it nears. Not black and angry like the smoke from a barn on fire but thick and dry and dirty as if a thousand horses’ hooves were doing their best to dislodge every grain of topsoil as they dug into it. A furious looking thing that makes one want to stop and wonder at it while at the same time wanting to run as fast as the legs will go away from its path.
After running, shelter is the first thing that comes to mind and people are scrambling furiously for a place that would be safe from what will inevitably overtake them. A woman wraps the ample folds of her skirt and apron around her two small children as she hurries them away from the cloud and into the house. A young couple cling to each other as they search for an open door, even a shed, where they might be safe. Children scream for their mothers just as their mothers call their names frantically from their doorsteps. Toys lay scattered on the ground where they were abandoned just seconds ago.
Panic fills the air all around but if one listens closely to the sounds beyond the panic there is silence. No birds chirping or singing or flapping their wings. No sounds from the crickets hidden deep in the grass. Not a squirrel or chipmunk scurrying about. Only an ominous silence is heard from nature. In the quiet they warn that something is coming. If one was listening before the dust cloud appeared the silence would have spoken volumes. But now the people all flee recklessly from the darkness threatening to engulf them and smother them.
Homes begin to disappear as the fury overcomes and consumes them. The frightened residents cry out from the corners of their cellars where they huddle together and cling to each other in fear. One by one every structure becomes ravaged by the storm and disappears from view.
Suddenly the wind is not so angry and the cloud flattens enough to allow the peaks of roofs to see the sun once again. In another instant the dust settles and covers everything in sight with a thick blanket of gray powder.
One by one the weary citizens emerge from their hiding places. The children look out from behind their mother’s skirts with wide eyes, still fearful. Adults survey the damage and run to check on the animals they were forced to leave outdoors and to the mercy of the storm. It could have been worse, they say to one another, thankful that the wind driven soil hadn’t done more damage to their property and their health.
The clean up begins immediately. Men wipe off machinery while women grab their brooms to sweep dirt from porches and windowsills. Children dust off their toys and begin to play as if nothing happened, though once in awhile a gust of wind will give them a start.
From where I stand, high up on the hill, things seem to be quickly returning to normal. One can almost hear the collective sigh of relief among the citizens as they look around them at the horizon and see no cloud of dust bearing down on their fragile wooden homes. There are no clouds of any kind. No squirrels or chipmunks scurrying around. No sounds from birds or crickets. Only an ominous silence, speaking volumes to anyone who has an ear to listen.