Mar 30, 2014
In March, the wind has personality.
The wind is the cartoon caricature of the curly-haired brute with the puffed-out cheeks. My Allegheny ridge-top neighborhood is where he lives—the somewhat difficult neighbor, the fellow whose mood is never easy to predict.
I imagine him, suspended just above the mountain across the valley.
I hear him inhale to his full capacity—that’s the rather high-pitched sucking sound that precedes the blast—and then I feel him blow it all my way.
After the whine—almost like air escaping a balloon—there’s a warning rumble and then BAM! His breath smashes against the cabin walls and chases round the exterior, shrieking like Aladdin uncorked. He rattles the windows and batters the gutters and skitters across the metal roof. He shimmies up and down the chimney and lingers in the corners of the dormers, howling.
And then he goes away. The wind inhales with a trailing moan and leaves me in silence. Silence more unnerving than all the noise of his brash breath. Silence so full it hums, so dense it might contain all sound, as white light contains all color.
I listen to this silence not just with my ears, but with my body. Perhaps he’s finished for tonight, I tell myself. Or perhaps, heaven forbid, he’s just getting started.
Waiting for his exhale occupies me completely. I hold my breath, don’t swallow, barely blink. I’m braced, readied for a fight, scalp tingling with dread anticipation.
Through the window, the nearby trees—oaks, hickories, birch, ash—begin a hula-hoop rotation. The movement starts in the upper branches and soon involves the whole of each tree in a circular dance. At first, it’s like watching a silent movie. And then I hear the jet engine roar.
The cabin shakes and the bed trembles. I squeeze shut my eyes. Sleep is hard to come by on windy March nights.
My log cabin is heavy and altogether sturdy. It’s not as if it’s going to blow away, I tell myself. If the roof hasn’t come off yet, it’s likely to stay put. There won’t be any permanent damage done.
It’s…just… the… wind.
I know this. And yet, with the first far-off whine or tell-tale rumble, I often jerk the covers up over my head in a reflexive, cowering gesture. A gesture very much like that of any subordinate animal.
I don’t think about it—I just do it. I’m fully aware that the sheet and blanket tucked around my head don’t afford me any real protection. But such posture is an unmistakable sign of respect. And, clearly, respect is the right response.
I may think I know the wind; the wind thinks nothing of me. The wind doesn’t know me. The wind isn’t out to get me. I’ve not been singled out.
I know this is true, despite the rage in his voice. Despite the force of his breath. Despite the fear that rises through me like lamp oil rises through a wick.
Christina Rossetti wrote: “There are sleeping dreams and waking dreams, what seems is not always as it seems.”
I cling to this rationale as to a kite string in a storm. Each rumble and blast tests my grip.
The wind has no quarrel with me. But if that’s true, why won’t he leave me alone?
Perhaps, because he’s a bully.
The kind of bully who will topple this house as a child topples Lincoln Logs, and with the same easy nonchalance. The kind who will destroy just because he can, and for no clearer, better reason. The kind who doesn’t have to know me personally.
My pulse quickens and my skin prickles. The wind tears the kite string from my hands. The genie screams in the eaves. The wind shows no sign of tiring. My intellect surrenders. I give up.
I’m no longer a Twenty-first Century, Doppler radar-trained Homo Sapiens huddled here under the covers. I am Cro-Magnon Woman.
I ask for mercy, and wait for morning, and listen in the dark.