I can’t be the only person on the planet who is susceptible to being hypnotically transfixed by the motion and dispersion of things like dust, seeds, snow and ash.
I suspect my particular awe for the visible suspension and movements of heavier than air particles may have been exacerbated early in my youth, when it was easy to lose oneself on the wings of an errant dandelion seed gently floating in the window, instead of fully embracing the return to classes at the secession of summer vacation.
As the days shortened and the chill set in, the wind-swept American prairies around longitude Omaha and latitude Interstate 80 are a vast stage for snow to dance on. Many winter days were spent watching the snow twist and swirl, in direct violation of my teacher’s desired wishes to memorize the five stages of cell division or learn the proper conjugation of Spanish verbs.
Pollen and Dust
Spring unleashes a mostly invisible universe of pollens, though while living down south, I endured the annual waves of yellow-tinged tree jizz (from Mississippi’s mono-cultured loblolly pines) wafting through the air and choking the local atmosphere with a veracity not seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s (For my expanding Anglican readership, substitute the Great Smog of ’52).
Adding to the hypnotic sui generis of the threatening yellow clouds, are honey bees, whose abdomens are overburdened with the sudden windfall of pollen. Looking as bloated as Elvis a week before his last unfortunate trip to the loo, many have trouble even keeping airborne with their bounty. The ones forced to stagger home walking, looking like Mel Gibson after a late night encounter at a police checkpoint, are the lucky ones. Those managing to keep themselves aloft are unwittingly involving themselves in a real life version of Angry Birds-Hunger Games edition, and the bee eating birds are busting a gut nearly as big as the bees. Whoever says you can’t watch evolution in action must be Ray Comfort, but I digress.
Perhaps the most transfixing of the group of dazzlingly suspended particles are the smoke and ash selections.
I have a special fondness for the tiniest bits of solitary suspended ash. Nearly invisible to the naked eye, their joyous arrival is often announced only as a brief tiny glint, as delicate as the soft twinkle of a faint star . Once identified, they can then be individually tracked if one is lucky enough to quickly triangulate their original location. Like dandelion seeds, they often move very slowly (at least the ones you can track) and hang in midair suspended by the most gentle of currents. The battle between loft and gravity is never more intriguing than when you get to watch it mano v mano in this fashion.
When my mom finally decided it was time I could handle it, I negotiated the privilege of watching my first SciFi horror show on TV. It was an original episode of The Outer Limits. The details of her agreeing to letting me watch it included a discussion over “real life” and “TV fantasy” as well as my promise not to have nightmares if she let me watch. Upon reflection, that would appear to be a promise one might have a real problem in keeping, but it seems to be the in the nature of motherhood to believe nearly any promise emanating from their progeny.
It was a cold winter night. As if to enhance the gloom, the eerie grayish glow of the large black and white cathode ray tube was the only light in the room. I laid in a prone position tucked on the sofa next to my mother as we shared a hand-crocheted blanket to ward off the drafts (and for me at the time….monsters. lol).
As was her custom, my mother had an unfiltered Pall Mall cigarette burning in the ashtray emitting copious amounts of bluish smoke into the room (and setting the stage for my long term addiction to nicotine). The episode of Outer Limits she’d agreed to let me see centered around a set and story involving the use of ground hugging fog. The blue smoke from my mom’s cigarette migrated into the thin boundary layer created by the differential in temperature between the warm ceiling and cold floor, finally settling in at a level consistent with the bottom of the picture tube and creating the conditions for a perfect mirage as I laid on the sofa parallel to the TV.
My active imagination quickly embraced the idea that the fog had left the TV set and starting engulfing the room, my room! To heighten my increasing sense of self inflicted panic and confusion, the light from the TV was in a perfect position to reflect off the underlying azure haze of the cigarette smoke and was casting ghastly dancing reflections about the room as the show cut from scene to scene. I was freaking out (internally) worse than Ralphie on A Christmas Story, right after catching the inevitable BB in the eye. My brain was looking for answers. I’m wondering why my mother hasn’t yet keyed in on what I surmise to be an eminent takeover by hostile alien forces. Is she asleep? No, she looks like she’s awake. The veins in her neck are relaxed. The details of my ultimate decision not to go into a maniacal screaming panic on a search through my toy box for my ultimate alien destroyer gun (red ping pong balls) escapes me. It is lost in the adrenaline and fear of the moment, but I know I made the right choice in hunkering down and riding it out to the commercial break. Mom always told me I was special and I believed her.