It always comes back to the sound of things. Sandy arrived a few hours ago with the howl and grate of the wind, at first gentle and mercurial, then more assertive, and then ferocious in the way utter madness must be. And now, the rain has joined in, and the sight outside is something out of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I even looked out to see if there was, indeed, an old man with white hair gone mad, but I only saw the city people come to the rescue of a neighbor whose driveway is now completely taken up by a fallen tree.
It’s mad outside, mad and extreme, in ways which are so characteristic of the USA, only weatherwise, of course. I remember some four decades ago, when I first landed in the US, in Iowa City, we were out at a picnic my first semester, and suddenly out of nowhere a tornado came our way so quickly and with such fierce determination that I thought we were going to be completely engulfed, neutralized, pulverized. It was my first experience of fear in the face of a natural phenomenon. In the Middle East, where I had grown up, we had known fear, but it was the fear of war, of theft, of crossing borders and being searched in ways that were, and still are, deeply humiliating. But this was different; this was nature; this was extreme.
The same sense grips me this afternoon, but today, not so much fear as a perverse sort of excitation which is surely the sister of fear (as Hollywood and the politicians know so well). The wind keeps grating; like a razor it cuts through things, its sound unrelenting, as was the sound, the rumble of that Iowa City tornado. And for all the wetness and fallen trees, for all the lost electricity and flooded basements, it’s the sound of the wind which excites and terrorizes, the harbinger of deep fear and pervasive chaos . The sound comes out of nowhere every time, in thick waves, one wave quickly merging into another, subsides and then picks up again and with it another surge in the rain, the menacing sway of trees, as though the wings of the world were caught in their final quiver.
It is always like this–the sound of things, the voice of the wind, today un-cadenced, brutal, violent. The world gone mad, and King Lear lurking in the suburbs of my little town of Belmont.
Oh, Sandy, you’ve arrived in all your fury and violence and excitation. I take it all back, what I said yesterday; those were mere words, not we’re in the grip of your voice. And you’ve brought with you the folly of kings, the ingratitude of old men, but also the generosity of the innocent. Thanks, Mark, for your gesture. ~~