THEY DO NOT HAPPEN NOW, the sandstorms of my childhood, when the western
distance ochred, and the square emptied, and long before the big wind hit,
you could taste the dust on your tongue, could feel the earth under you–and
even something in you–seem to loosen slightly. Soon tumbleweeds began to
skip and nimble by, a dust devil flickered firelessly in the vacant lot
across the street from our house, and birds began rocketing past with their
wings shut as if they’d been flung. Worse than snow, worse than ice, a bad
sandstorm shrinks the world to the slit of your eyes, lifting from the
fields an inchoate creaturely mass that claws at any exposed skin as if the
dust remembered what it was, which is what you are–alive, alive–and sought
return. They do not happen now, whether because of what we’ve learned or
because the earth itself has changed. Yet I can close my eyes and see all
the trees tugging at their roots as if to unfasten themselves from the
earth. I can hear the long-gone howl, more awful for its being mute.
– Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss (
A couple of years ago, we had the worst drought in our local history. Which
was the worst drought in a long, storied history of droughts. We had three
inches of rain the entire year and over a month of 100+ degree days.
Everything died. The city of Amarillo had to cut down half of the trees in
our oldest park. Trees that had survived the Dust Bowl.
Now our springs, which are typically windy, carry all of the dust that was
turned loose in that drought. In the past 2 weeks we’ve had 6 or 7 dust
storms, or haboobs which the Weather Channel has unfortunately taken to
calling them. I know there are dust storms in other parts of the world, but
I think ours are particular. The result of our region’s inherent pride,
folly, arrogance, hard-scrabble pragmatism, loyalty. I wish we had a word
that had sprung from our own tongue. But then again, people around here don’t
I’m grateful that Wiman grew up around here.