Send in the Verbs

April 17th, 2012 at 10:04 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:




Adjectives and nouns get a lot of use this time of year. The Kansas spring is described as everything from tranquil to tornadic.

Spring delivers dandy flowers, dangerous storms, and the sweetest days imaginable. But spring is much more than adjectives and nouns.

Rain, storm, and thunder – for us, these are not just quiet little nouns; they are action-packed words. The Kansas spring is a season of verbs.

Bugs splat on the windshield. Thunder telegraphs a storm. Birds sing us awake before dawn. The sun smiles, warms our un-sleeved arms. Rain washes cars, streets, and cats inadvertently left outdoors.

A light wind blends aromas. In the early spring, scented trails of lilacs drift past my porch; the neighbor’s spirea tickles my nose. When the honeysuckle blooms, it sweetens the night air and its fragrance slips through the bedroom window as I fall asleep.

The breeze bends young trees. Exhaling a chorus, wind sings one stanza after another; sometimes it’s the longest song in the world.

Wind casts no shadows, yet it breathes down our necks. Gusts pull dust from the fields and the grit scurries across the landscape. We wear that dust like a second skin. A tan? Nope, it’s just dirt.

As words of action, verbs make themselves at home in the Kansas sky. And we, below, must weather the weather, whether we like it or not.

Young and energetic, the spring sky stretches its boundaries, tests us to see how much it can get away with. And because there are no guardians of the sky, it gets away with everything. After a day of drama and destruction, the sky offers no remedy, no recourse, no reparations.

With our energy-filled atmosphere: the colliding fronts, the ever-ready wind, the moisture from the Gulf, our days and nights often rumble.

The entire sky gets into the act, sets the stage for a major performance, and we’re all seated in the stadium, watching, waiting, vulnerable.

During these rock-and-roll storms, we are like pioneers, exposed on the prairie, feeling small as the self-assured sky churns above us. Storms grow, taking up longitude and latitude, filling the sky with bruised clouds.

These clouds fly with impatience, turning late afternoon into darkness several hours before sunset. Lightning detonates thunder and divides a jagged sky. Each storm threatens us, a new violence as yet unmeasured.

Thunder growls. It sounds like a headache feels, a persistent ache rolling across the heavens.

Sometimes I think of these storms as pirates sailing the sky. Their cloud-ships are heavy, loaded with gunpowder and cannons. I visualize the skull and crossbones flying atop each mast.

In the springtime, these pirates pillage and plunder our state. For several nights in a row they troll our skies, casing Kansas, looking for an easy mark. They pick off a town here and there, collecting gold and treasures, taking a few souls along the way.

Sometimes, with cloud-to-cloud lightning, it appears that the pirates are attacking each other, but soon enough they aim their cannons at us. They fire away, a barrage of rain and hail.

While we’re dodging hailstones or running into basements, the pirates spin the skies and slide down to earth inside of a funnel. These scoundrels take what they want, leaving behind a mosaic of disaster.

After the storm moves on, a streak of brilliant light rides the western horizon. From there, the sun slings a rainbow onto the eastern sky, an apology for its absence.

The good guys gallop in, the cavalry has arrived. They bring with them the calm evening light, and return us to a land of peaceful adjectives and nouns.

Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh

columns, Flyover Weather, life on the ground, seasons, sky

  1. April 17th, 2012 at 10:11 | #1


  2. Lucrecia Eubanks
    April 17th, 2012 at 10:39 | #2

    Sounds like the Kansas I know. Very good.

  3. Janet Fish
    April 17th, 2012 at 15:04 | #3

    Wow Cheryl, the weather brings out some great words in you! You’re a great writer anyway. But this was special.

  4. Roger
    April 17th, 2012 at 17:24 | #4

    This one is for the next book.

  5. cheryl
    April 17th, 2012 at 19:52 | #5

    Thank you, Kelley, Lucrecia, Janet and Roger. 🙂

  6. Anna Keller
    April 17th, 2012 at 20:40 | #6

    An edge of the seat column…. excellent… could almost feel the thunder/pirates rumbling away!

  7. April 17th, 2012 at 20:42 | #7

    Thanks, Anna. 🙂

  8. April 17th, 2012 at 22:17 | #8

    Lovely! Love this one.

  9. April 18th, 2012 at 07:20 | #9

    Incredible word pictures, Cheryl. Thank you! Reminds me of why I love Kansas!

  10. Weeta
    April 18th, 2012 at 11:55 | #10

    “Exhaling a chorus, wind sings one stanza after another.” – great description! Wonderful column Cheryl. I feel like I’m there.