Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hot Days in Indiana

It's been hot weather in southern Indiana* lately punctuated by thunderstorms. It reminds of one of the many luscious passages in W.J. Cash's exuberant and acerbic The Mind of the South.

In explaining the South's penchant for romance, he writes:

Moreover, there was the influence of the Southern physical world -- itself a sort of cosmic conspiracy against reality in favor of romance. The country is one of extravagant colors, of proliferating foliage and bloom, of flooding yellow sunlight, and, above all, perhaps, of haze. Pale blue fogs hang above the valleys in the morning, the atmosphere smokes faintly at midday, and through the long slow afternoon, cloud-stacks tower from the horizon and the earth-heat quivers upward through the iridescent air, blurring every outline and rendering every object vague and problematical. I know that winter comes to the land, certainly. I know there are days when the color and the haze are stripped away and the real stands up in drab and depressing harshness. But these things pass and are forgotten.

The dominant mood, the mood that lingers in the memory, is one of well-nigh drunken reverie -- of a hush that seems allthe deeper for the far-away mourning of the hounds and the far-away crying of the doves -- of such sweet and inexorable opiates as the rich odors of hot earth and pinewood and the perfume of the magnolia in bloom -- of soft languor creeping through the blood and mounting surely to the brain . . . It is a mood, in sum, in which directed thinking is all but impossible, a mood in which the mind yields amlmost perforce to drift and in which the imagination holds unchecked sway, a mood in which nothing any more seem improbablye save the puny inadequateness of fact, nothing incredible save the bareness of truth.

But I must tell you also that the sequel to this mood is invariably a thunderstorm. For days -- for weeks, it may be --- the land lies thus in reverie and then . . . (p. 48)

And here describing how the South could never rest with Anglicanism but needed a "personal and extravagant" faith:

With this heritage, moreover, the physical world sometimes joined hands. If the dominant mood is one of sultry reverie, the land is capable of other and more somber moods. There are days when the booming of the wind in the pines is like the audible rushing of time -- when the sad knowledge of the grave stirs in the subconsciousness and bends the spirit to melancholy; days when the questions that have no answers must insinuate themselves into the minds of the least analytical of men. And there are other days -- in July and August -- when the nerves wilt under the terrific impact of sun and humidity, and even the soundest grow a bit neurotic; days saturnine and bilious and full of heavy foreboding. And there are those days, too, when the earth whimpers in dread, when the lightning clicks in awful concatenation with continuous thunder, and hurricanes break forth with semi-tropical fury; days when this land which, in its dominant mood, wraps its children in soft illusion, strips them naked before terror (p. 57).

That's how to talk about the weather!

*Technically speaking, yes, I know southern Indiana is of course not the South, and true Southerners may regard it as mere presumption for me to even speak of the topic. But the weather here does remind me of a somewhat paler version of Mr. Cash's exposition.