Sturm und Drang

strumunddrang
"An old saying insists that Sturm und Drang signifies nothing"

I am not a man given to emotional outbursts. I hail from a placid valley where a summer day might passive-aggressively scorch but only rarely degrade into fearful vengeance. Colorado's Front Range experiences a different midsummer normal. Here, a July day's temperature routinely ranges forty degrees or more between sunrise and sunset, heating quickly as morning progresses before monsoonal moisture erupts. The fabled hiss of summer lawns by mid afternoon might routinely transform into brisk then fierce wind followed by first distant thunder, then terrifyingly close lightning, then drenching rain. Colorado's summer weather has serious mood lability issues, and one can reasonably expect it to turn unreasonable with little warning.

It's Texas' fault, a reasonable if slightly unfair attribution.
Midsummer, a hot high hangs over Midland, circulating clockwise and pulling moisture up from the tropics. This system works like clockwork. Frisky wind greets each dawn. A tranquilizing stillness replaces it through the warming morning hours. By noon, any rational person would conclude that the day would simply continue to warm until a late sunset turned down the heat. Simple extrapolation can't foresee the coming calamity, the great discontinuity coming, an unanticipated emotional outburst. No matter how routinely the abuse erupts, I never see it coming.

The anger comes in from behind our mountain, which cloaks its advance. I'll be distractedly picking away at some early afternoon activity, crawling my way through another copyediting session or finally delving more deeply into that latest borrowed novel, when a door will slam. I will not have noticed the angry gusts pulsing through the village. Magpies will start their alarming chorus. The neighbor kids, earlier streaking through a sprinkler, will have fallen uncharacteristically silent. A poinsettia might have been blown off its window-side table without me noticing again. A screen might have blown loose. The temperature's dropped fifteen degrees and the house fills with dread.

I feel relieved when the storm finally breaks. Thunder closes in before lightning fills each window frame. Sharp cracks overwhelm every competing sound. I flinch with each fresh insult. Then the rain begins, first as isolated fat drops, quickly building into a blinding deluge. The sunny summer afternoon turns malevolent and dark, and I rush to close the windward windows as the sills start to drip rainwater down the walls beneath them. I batten up and down, peering out into the sudden ferocity. The familiar neighborhood becomes a front-line battle scene as unseen cannon pound my precarious position. I see small hail bouncing around within sheeting rain like little loose cannonballs careening off their targets. The chokecherry tree seems to slump her shoulders and hunker down beneath the onslaught.

I'm safe and warm inside. My upside down American flag has wrapped itself around its shaft again and become sullen in the pounding. I worry about the deck garden. Should the hail intensify, the petunias will be shredded again, but I'm powerless to pull out the old tarps and sheets to try to cover them now, I'm too late, so I leave them to their fate. I grew up in a placid valley in a peaceful home overseen by a father who very rarely raised his voice and only administered corporal punishment when my mother insisted upon it, and then barely half-heartedly. My upbringing left me poorly prepared for any sort of emotional outburst, though I heard stories of families featuring a raging dad. I can't seem to help believing that we're more reasonable than that, but even following The Enlightenment, movements like Sturm und Drang tried to keep alive the understanding that humans would never be fairly described as rational. Colorado's midsummer monsoons seem to revive that opinion. We don't live in The Enlightenment here, but The Enlightningment.

I wonder each placid morning when the next lightning might show, for we have as a nation installed a hot-headed high over our political Texas, which spins like demonic clockwork to pull tropical moisture into our otherwise perfectly peaceful summer afternoons. Confronting cooler heads, surprisingly fierce storms rage over shockingly little differences. High drama overtakes even the higher ground and a deluge ensues to quickly overflow gutters and overwhelm usually placid draws and creeks. Later, standing water fills every hollow. The humidity spikes. The roadways, freshly washed, carry traffic down toward the plains again. An old saying insists that Sturm und Drang signifies nothing. I some afternoons question that assertion.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









blog comments powered by Disqus