Posts Tagged ‘atmosphere’

Birthday Blizzard 2011

February 1st, 2011 | Meera

This is not that essay on ice I promised you. What it is, instead, is a video I made while walking through what the media in Chicago have been calling, with great brio and all-out apocalyptic fervor, a “dangerous winter storm,” an “all-encompassing snowstorm,” “the most intense blizzard we have seen since 1967,” and—my favorite, seen on the Chicagoist and sure to be copied, “Blizzaster 2011.” After all that hype, Dave and I agreed this morning (before it really began) that we weren’t at all sure this snowstorm was going to turn out to be everything it was cracked up to be. But you know what? This thing really delivered.

There is driving wind that sounds like it’s the big bad wolf and we are one very small, very stupid little piggy in a frail straw house. There is blowing snow. There is cottony debris all over our windows. There are people being blown down the sidewalk by gusts. There is a pickup truck on our street corner that iced itself into a real pickle at some point in the evening and has been revving its engine for the past half hour trying, unsuccessfully, to move. And there is thunder and lightning. It is pretty fucking awesome.

So we went outside.

According to a handy dandy chart I just consulted, the four or five minutes my hands were exposed while I was taking this video, along with a second, was far from sufficient to cause any kind of frostbite damage, given the temperature (about 20 F), the wind chill (about 3 F), and the wind speed (about 25 MPH). But that didn’t stop my fingers from hurting like hell when I finally got them back under cover of glove and pocket. In fact, the shock and adrenaline rush I felt as a result of the pain was not unlike what you might feel if you’d sustained a sudden and injurious fall. This is how much I love you and want to share with you the pleasures of the night.

But now, my friends, the end of my 32nd birthday nears, and for the next 100 minutes I intend to enjoy the snow from a less blustery vantage point. If you’re reading and you know I don’t know it, say hi, will you? It’ll be a lovely birthday gift.

And When You Look Up

January 5th, 2011 | Meera

There was that moment, years before, when you first discovered that you could see the air. How could it have taken so long? Maybe it was only that you’d never sat just so, interrupting the course of a streak of sunlight as it ran—like a river on a mission—down to its journey’s end, its peaceful, silent terminus.

Maybe you’d never been in a place so friable before: a place where the matter of the world was engaged in an occupation of slow and constant crumbling, and had been for some time—the debris of which was so light, and so plentiful, as to become a force that defied gravity itself. You could see it there, levitating above your head. It took the form of great clouds of dust that dropped and rose and eddied in the sunlight, like broken twigs in the flow of a stream.

So the moment came, late though it was, and there it was: the air. Oh, not the air, all right; let us be truthful, if we must. But close enough: the air’s attorney, its surrogate form, its full and official deputy in all matters pertaining to visibility. The air was bright as diamonds. And there you were, amazed.

And there is this moment, years later. Night, not day. No sunlight to be found, not on this half of the earth at any rate; no radiance whose course you might cut off. No dust, either, for the world is now so cold that it has frozen all its chalky parts to itself, and will not release from its hard core nor the slightest bit of powder nor the merest speck of smut. All that breathes about you is obscured. Indeed, you have forgotten as you walk that the air had ever been unveiled.

But then it starts to snow.

So fine a snow is this that if you try to spy a flake it disappears; so fine that though a few rare flecks brush your lips like needles, you cannot be sure of their actuality.

Still you understand: the world up there is kindly crumbling. And when you look up, it strikes you that you stand just so: interrupting the business of a streetlamp.

On Sultry Dreams

December 26th, 2010 | Meera

You cannot counterfeit the air.

I have lived where the air is thick, crowded, and heavy—where the space rightfully allotted to the air, immense though it seems this must be (comprising, as it does, all of the vast latitudes and infinitesimal interstices left behind once earth, tree, stone, sea, and every animate and inanimate thing has taken up its place in the world), has nevertheless run out.

Where what space there is has become saturated with the dampness of sweat and steam and the rising puffs of the air’s own slow-moving breath. I have lived where molecules of water in the air are so numerous and insistent that they jostle hard against molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and tell them where they can stick it; where moisture besieges the pathways of the atmosphere like a rabble of old ladies, each one with her elbows out and umbrella a-kicking, each one rioting wetly against the delicate knees of those rarer and more noble gases that flit nervously out of the way.

Humid, they call the air in such a place, but what I call it is mobbed. And you cannot counterfeit this with your humidifiers and your steam rooms and your dreams of being there. You cannot counterfeit the air.