The view from 400 miles, and 100 years away
Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 10:11AM
Toby Considine in Musings

As I walked the dog to the store this morning, I thought of the different way we know things today. The sky was clear, but I could tell. The air was cool, but I could tell. I didn’t need to hear the announcers from the weather service. I wondered how I knew. And I pondered what it would have been like to know, a hundred years ago, with no way to tell whether it would affect me and my life...

One of the great gifts a dog gives its owner is dawn. Rusty is getting slow now, and white about the jowls; he really prefers to keep his travels to those between the cushion in his kennel and the mat by the glass door where he can watch the yard. Still, in the morning, he complains until we go out. Nowadays, he can’t make it all the way to the store and the paper. He slows. He pretends to be interested in something half way, and he waits until my return. Still he has given me the pre-dawn, again...

At dawn, the roads don’t smell like cars. The night shift, the animals that come out at night, is sleepily returning home. In Bynum, for the last decade, guinea fowl wander in the early morning. They cruise across yards, gobbling up ticks and fleas. The dogs seem to leave them alone. I think it’s the noise; a flock of guinea fowl makes the most horrendous noise when harassed. This morning, they were silent.

The air, the quiet still air had an ineffable feel. Perhaps there was a hint of sea in the wind, but there was no wind yet. The humid summer air in North Carolina always blurs things in the distance just a bit; perhaps today it blurred it less. The skies were clear of clouds, in a way I don’t usually expect until fall. This clearing seems to come before the clouds of a hurricane.

Everything felt like a hurricane. I don’t know if I would have noticed, without years of dawn walks, led by and leading a succession of dogs. This morning I knew. And I thought of what it was like, walking here, a hundred years ago.

What would it be like to know, but to have no idea whether the storm was coming to land, or staying at sea?

As I drove into town, driving North, I could see the summer sky to my left, to the East. I could see those long banded clouds that surround a hurricane, catching the morning sun. They were silver and gold, and beautiful, and ominous.

The storm, at that time, was 400 miles away. I knew it wasn’t going to get any closer to me, than that. But a hundred years ago, the signs would have been just as clear, without that knowing.

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