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

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?