Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thrill Before the Storm

This was one of my first writing assignments as a college freshman.   We were instructed to write a descriptive essay.   It's one of my favorite things I've ever written.   It's not some great literary work and it took tremendous restraint not to correct the many things I'd like to change now.   I cringed at some of the cliches and my tendency--overuse-- of repetition is evident.   Then, there are the tense issues.   It is a favorite, though, because, as I wrote in the previous post, it was one of the first essays I ever "saw."   It is also a favorite because it is a description of the storms I regularly witnessed growing up on our farm.   I loved watching the approaching storms and taking shelter during their short reign over the land.   I post it as part of my mission to record a part of myself on this blog, for myself and my children.

I am standing in the middle of a yard.   A large brick house is about twenty feet behind me.   Directly in front of me I can see a large pasture full of lush, green rye grass.  A herd of cattle is grazing in the back of the pasture and a group of pecans look over a barn sitting on the right corner of the pasture.   From where I stand the world around me seems to have turned into an expectant audience.   It seems to be holding its breath, waiting not for calm before the storm, but for some spectacular display that nature appears to be preparing.

The first noticeable change is that in the sky.   Usually a calm sight of light blue with feathery white clouds, the sky is transformed, in a matter of seconds.   It has taken on a blue-violet shade of color and the soft white clouds, now heavy and grey, seem confused as they swirl through the sky.   At regular intervals, flashes of lightening make their appearance.   The white, jagged flashes look as if they are tearing through the sky.   As one flash of lightening makes its cut, a tiny thread of silver, like the silver tinsel of a Christmas tree, streaks through the middle of the white flash.   For a second the world is lit by a silver glow, like a huge flashbulb camera has snapped a picture.   The new shade of the sky affects all the colors of the land below, making them more intense.   The trees and grasses are bright green and they glow against the blue-violet sky.

Along with the changes in colors, the storm also brings wind.   The wind begins as a soft, cool breeze.   The breeze barely touches the grasses of the pastures and only tickles the leaves of the pecan trees.   The metal chimes on the back porch softly ring with the flow of the wind.   Gradually the breeze becomes stronger, as it rushes around me.   The cool breeze that barely touched the grass now surges through the pastures, looking like it is control of the pastures, leaving the blades of grass standing at attention.   The wind blows through the pecan trees and, looking up, I can see the top of a tall, old tree swaying, like a flickering candle flame, with the wind.   I can hear the sound of brittle pecan limbs breaking as the limbs snap and later hit the ground with a faint thud.   The chimes on the back porch now ring louder and more often, being shaken by the wind.   In the distance a dull banging sound can be heard, and looking in the direction of the sound, I see two aluminum gates, tied together, being blown against each other.   Clothes still hanging on the clothesline are popping in the wind, with a sound like that of a cracking whip.

The small herd of grey Brahman cattle in the pasture, that just minutes before had been calmly grazing among the rye grass, is now alert to the changing weather.   The cattle seem to be charged with a sudden energy throughout their bodies, as if the wind rushing around them is sparked with electricity.   The cattle slowly lift their heads from their grazing, raise their noses toward the sky, as if smelling the coming rain, and begin to run around the pasture.   The calves gather in a group and begin to explore this strange situation.   They run across the pasture, tails sticking straight up in the air, kicking out their hind legs, and bawling excitedly to each other.    The cows are not far behind, running to catch up with the calves.   The herd makes a few more trips around the pasture before settling down to stand under the group of pecan trees in the far right corner of the pasture.

No sooner than the cattle reach the trees, the sound of the coming rain can be heard.   The wind blows strongly until the rain has finally reached the pastures and is coming down in a steady flow.   Now the sound in the air is that of the driving rain, occassionally mixed with the bellows of the cattle attempting to stay dry under the pecan trees.   The sky is a dull blue-grey color now and the wind has settled down to a slight breeze again.   The chimes ring every so often and the sound of the rain hitting the metal roof of the barn I've taken shelter in covers the sound of the limbs I can see hitting the ground.

It seems that the colors and wind before the storm have moved ahead now and the rain has settle in for what looks like a long stay.   I can see the grass lying flat and the limbs of the pecan trees bending down under the pressure of the pounding rain.   After coming to life with the colors and sounds before the storm, the grasses and trees seems to be limp under the power of this rain.   Although the rain hits heavily against the metal roof, I feel like I have witnessed nature's true power and beauty in the thrill before the storm.


  1. I love how present everything feels in this moment. I wrote an essay about a trip to India as a child that I wrote in present tense and it makes everything much more vivid, I think. Isn't it incredible that the memories become more and more deeply engraved the more we write and read about these experiences?

  2. Terri,

    I enjoyed your essay! I could just picture the scene. I imagine you are transported back in time as you read this.

    I also love the present tense. It gives such a sense of being there right in the middle of the action.

    I know what it feels like to reread past writings and feel dissatisfied, wanting to change things. I often cringe at my old articles. I suppose that's a positive thing. We are no longer happy because we have improved in technique and learnt more. I sometimes do go back and change things until I am satisfied. I once wrote that a piece of writing is never finished. We continually grow and so see things in a different way, and so we adjust what we wrote to accommodate today's viewpoint. Or we learn how to say things in a better way.

    Thanks for sharing your essay.


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