A couple of years ago a guy who said he was from the Harris County Public Library contacted me and said he was asking various Texas writers to make short videos explain why they—we—write. So I agreed to make one….
It was the summer of 2011, in the middle of an eye-poppingly hot heatwave, day after day—weeks!—of temps over 100 degrees. But one day, just as I was getting out of the class I was teaching at the prison, a storm was building up—the first rain in a long time, and the last rain for a long time—and when the big storm broke, I pulled off and parked and made the video.
I don’t know if the library guy ever made use of my little self-interview—I’ve never seen it on the library website. But I was looking for something else on my computer this week, and came across it, and decided to share it with the world….
I was as at the prison and we were writing about lying— about liars and lies told —when an instructor came by the classroom and said that the education building was being shut down, and the inmates needed to return to the units. So I gave everyone a homework assignment and the students left and I began packing up, when one of the students stuck her head back in the classroom and said, “It’s raining! You’ve got to see this!”
We’ve been in a hard, hard drought this year, and then, as of today, 23 straight days of over 100 degrees. It’s been rough.
I went out into the hallway and the instructor said, “Well, it’s trying to rain. Been a long time!”
One of the rules of the institution is that in times of thunder and lightning, inmates are restricted to the units, and so my students went all excited back to the barracks. I closed up my briefcase and went outside—and was half-blinded by dust. We’ve been so dry there’s not much but dirt and dust in this area, and the storm winds were picking up the dirt and blowing it around. I signed out at the security station and went to my car. A few drops of mud came from the sky. There were sudden blasts of cool air—cool!—from downdrafts, followed by the buffets of hot air. I could smell rain.
I drove back through the neighborhood—the sky was sort of open to the north, and stormy in the east and south. In this photo, looking north, you can see a field of dead grass. Texas right now is a sad, khaki-colored state….
Then it really started to rain! Amazing. I made a video of my drive home….
(Remember, I was a professional driver for six years—don’t try this at home!)
I stopped by the grocery store to get some supplies, and people were lined up under the awning gazing heavenward with looks of wonder on their faces.
Readers in damp climates, don’t take for granted the miracle of water from the sky.
And—why not?—some rock and roll….
Just hope I don't have to wait a long time to play this again.....
I drove to Conroe yesterday—drove through the much needed downpour of rain, thunder and lightning sublime!—for the annual Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration (Walt's birthday is of course the 31st, but this is Texas—we can celebrate it whenever we want). It's a great event: Lone Star College brings in Whitman experts for an afternoon lecture/discussion—this year, CK Williams—and then, in the evening, writers gather at a pub to read Whitman poems.
I read “An Old Man’s Thought of School”
An old man’s thought of School;
An old man, gathering youthful memories and blooms, that youth itself cannot.
Now only do I know you!
O fair auroral skies! O morning dew upon the grass!
And these I see—these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning—these young lives,
Building, equipping, like a fleet of ships—immortal ships!
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the Soul’s voyage.
Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a Public School?
Ah more—infinitely more;
(As George Fox rais’d his warning cry, “Is it this pile of brick and mortar—these dead floors, windows, rails—you call the church?
Why this is not the church at all—the Church is living, ever living Souls.”)
And you, America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
The lights and shadows of your future—good or evil?
To girlhood, boyhood look—the Teacher and the School.
Drove home under clear night skies with a bit of moon up there—also sublime.