On the far outskirts of Rita, 21 Sept. 2005 (click for larger image)
Once again an entity hundreds of miles away reveals a hint of its power....
The panorama dates from Wednesday, when Mary and I headed home from her allergy check-up. The cloudscape had dogged us throughout the drive, a seduction of light and layering upthrust from long stretches of county road. I forced my eyes away from a horizon bejeweled with vapor, concentrated instead on the Lilliputian tonnage of traffic around us.
Mary, finally able to breathe through her nose after over a year of antigen shots, had last year registered an antibody count of up to 160 times that of the "average" person. Now the atmosphere surrounded us, dazzled us. You want to know what it's like to breathe? Here, try this....
"How about pulling into the mall?" she asked.
Not the greatest foreground for what we were seeing, but it would have to do. A safe place to park and catch what my camera would allow.
On Saturday morning I surface from the latest work jag, padding to and from The Weather Channel during breaks. Concerned about a young online friend in Rita's path, her school likely in lockdown, her county under a tornado warning hours after landfall.
Late afternoon marks a trip to the larger mall 10 miles away to do four shopping lists' worth of errands. On the outbound I blast the horn, warning the driver to my left against switching lanes into me. Mary admires my response time; coming from her that is high praise. She grew up on California freeways. I grew up on subways, still wet behind the ears behind the wheel. While I have learned to be a driver she has learned to be a passenger, relinquishing the control that has been her birthright.
As we head home well after dark a possum shuffles across the road and I scream -- pulling my foot from the gas, glancing in the rearview for any approaching danger. There is none; the road is mine. The possum waddles unhurriedly to safety. Mary had seen it, too, and is unperturbed by my shriek. I slow still further as we pass onto a stretch under construction, where the lanes shift from cockeyed to more cockeyed until the construction crew alters them again, barely obscuring the old, outdated yellow lines.
"Let's not talk," Mary says. "This is a stupid road with lots of stupid animals."
I burst into song:
with lots of stupid animals
and some stupid peo-ple, too....
The tune is a rough variant on "Catch a Falling Star." In minutes Mary and I are laughing so hard I'm barely able to see through my tears as we round the last streets home.