The Joys of "The Rural Life"

Slate's Culture Blog
July 7 2009 12:39 AM

The Joys of "The Rural Life"

Have you heard? It's rough going in the newspaper business these days. Which makes it a special pleasure to open the New York Times and find, tucked at the bottom of the editorial page, the latest in Verlyn Klinkenborg's occasional series "The Rural Life." That the paper still reserves a few inches for Klinkenborg's short dispatches from his farm upstate is somehow comforting. These items aren't hard news, and they aren't " A Night Out With: Judissa Bermudez ." They're lyrical meditations on subjects like the relationship between man and fox and the perspicacity of horses . Monday's was a particularly wonderful edition, a playful attempt to find words to describe the afternoon thunderstorms that have been buffeting Klinkenborg's farm:

/blogs/browbeat/2009/07/07/the_joys_of_the_rural_life/jcr:content/body/slate_image
John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

Soon the tuberous blunderheads trundle over the horizon; they begin to "wampum, wampum, wampum" until at last they're vrooming nearby, just down the valley. Or perhaps they're harrumphing and oomphing, from the very omphalos of the storm. Onomatopoeia is such a delicate thing.

Advertisement

"Suddenly the air is grackling," he writes as the storm arrives overhead. "Dark and furious in its plumage." It's a lovely image, evoking both the sudden, menacing darkness of a summer storm but also its beautiful

, as the sun plays off the clouds. Monday's essay reminded me of the prologue to

, Klinkenborg's book about Buffalo, N.Y., which introduces the city by describing how it reacts to word of inclement weather—"Snow begins as a rumor in Buffalo" reads the opening line—and then to the snow itself, falling out of a sky "as black as the pupil of an owl's eye." (You can read the prologue

.) Klinkenborg is now officially my favorite chronicler of upstate weather. Here's hoping the

Times

continues to publish "The Rural Life," despite the stormy climate.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Nicolas Sarkozy, Thrice Married, Says Gay Marriage Humiliates the Family

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 3:33 PM Killing With Kindness My in-laws want to throw me a get-well-from-cancer bash. There’s no way I can go.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 22 2014 4:06 PM No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 3:16 PM Watch the Best Part of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.