March 26, 2005


Good Friday night. Warm and partly cloudy, with a big waxing moon rising orange above the houses, shrinking and hardening to white as it climbs. Over a late dinner we talk about whether tomorrow will be warm enough for swimming. Well, I say, they forecast possible thundershowers and cooler.

Within five minutes a hard rain comes drumming straight down in big, fast, separate drops, louder and louder, and then we realize it’s hail. Cold wind blows through the open windows. The children press hands to ears: the clatter on the skylight sounds like the kind of machine gun fire that used to drive men crazy in the trenches. I zip through the house closing windows, getting towels to sop up the water on the floors. The kids ask if they can sleep in our bed tonight.

We turn on the outside lights to look at the hail in the darkness. Pellets of ice the size of olive pits are spreading over the driveway, covering it in a minute, mixed with downed green leaves. It’s splattering the cars—we hope it’s not big enough to crack windshields. We open the veranda door and step out, and horizontal wind and hail lash us back, the wind blowing under the veranda roof and through the latticework. When we scoot inside we find hail pellets on the carpet.

When we’re resettled at the dinner table, my wife rushes out again and brings us a double handful of hail, mixed with grass and leaves and grains of soil, for us to examine. It’s the only time we ever get to scoop up solid precipitation around here.

This morning the driveway and the cars are matted with downed green leaves and stems. The bare patches on the lawn are filled in with downed leaves—they’re greener than before.

I can't find anything on the local newspaper's website about the hailstorm, though Burnt Orange Report has a post abouit it and so does Austin The weather channel online gives yesterday’s precipitation total for Austin as 0”. Bloggers report golf–ball–sized hail in some places.

Was it an omen, a burst of community chi, a lancing of a psychic boil? As I wake up in bed in the morning, remembering the storm and thinking of how to describe it, gusts of dream mix with the hail. The rapidfire downpour of white pellets becomes a children’s choir. An encyclopedia article about hail metamorphoses into one on Kiri Te Kanawa.

How hard it is to see hail just as water freezing and melting and refreezing repeatedly in cold–front clouds!

CODA: Yesterday afternoon for the first time in my life I tried throwing the I Ching. I used a very ignorant method, only one coin instead of three, but what I came up with was Lake as the lower trigram leading to Water as the upper trigram. I interpreted it metaphorically to mean that something apparently stable would disintegrate into its elements and re–form; that something small (the lake) would disperse and join something larger, more oceanic. If the hailstorm was a fulfillment of the reading, it was a lot more literal than I expected!