Saturday, April 06, 2013

Elemental Dallas

One of my favorite undergraduate professors was a bit of a theory throwback. He still identified as a Freudian, long after trends had moved to continental philosophy. He taught the survey of methods in Literary Criticism course I took, which might explain why I'm not exactly a cutting edge theorist today.

Somewhere along the way, he worked in the idea of analyzing pieces based on the four classical elements. I have no idea where this came from. As scholarship, it seems doubtful, as a habit of mind I can't seem to shake it. Confronted with something new, I often find myself thinking: "Water, Earth, Air, or Fire?"

Atlanta, as a city, was clearly claimed by water. It rained in the sort of torrents I had only ever seen last an hour in other places for days on end. Even during a supposed drought, the summer was sticky and had you drenched in your own sweat in minutes.

Dallas, on the other hand, is a city that all but water seems to have a hold on. Earth, for the flat plains and endless dust. Fire for the baking sun. Air for the wind and the constant air traffic, and the open, cloudless sky.

In the end, though, I think this is a city of air. Seen from above, Dallas is a patchwork of uninterrupted light, since there are no trees tall enough to break line of sight to an airliner on final approach. The city is naked to the sky.

And that sky has been a source of endless fascination for me living here. There are aircraft aloft within view of my balcony more often than not. The airport to my north hosts quite a diverse set, long ezs, Beech Starships, the last flying B-29.

The birds are even more interesting than the planes. Falcons pushing flocks of starlings around the sky like sharks on shoals of herring. A few nights ago, I was sitting out before bed and heard a strange, rattling cry. I looked up and there was a checkmark of Egrets, white bellies lit orange in the streetlight, flying across the night sky in inverted silhouette.

Even here, in the suburbs of Dallas, the most domesticated and controlled place you could imagine, the sky is still wild. Just like the Firefly theme song said it would be :)  

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