Spring is synonymous with wind here in the desert. In the post below, taken from Chewing Sand, I am confronted with the difference between ‘humanity’ and ‘people’ as a teenager. Now as an elder, I find I struggle with the same disconnect, perhaps because I perceive such a gap between what humans can be and what people actually do. What say you?
The essence of the desert is wind.
Ed Abbey said so. But reading about it in Desert Solitaire is one thing, experiencing it first hand is quite another.
Gusts up to 50 mph were forecasted to become higher when we questioned our camping plans. But the campground was only fifty miles away, so we could always return home.
Four retirees, we had the luxury of an early arrival and a choice of camping sites. We selected one that seemed sheltered from the oncoming wind, and spent the afternoon poking around in the fiery-red sandstone bluffs that gave the state park its name and its fame.
And yes, it was windy: we didn’t dare light the campfire, and had to secure supper with lots of on-hand rocks.
We were to be two to a tent: one was set up by sunset, but we gave up on the other one soon after it turned dark.
Huddling between collapsed layers of canvas, I kept the mesh patch of a window over my face so I could breathe, as well as to see the stars as they moved across the firmament.
Staying awake to watch the glorious cosmic show was no problem, thanks to the wind. To say that it roared would be an understatement: it was more like the sound of a train coming out of a tunnel in an explosion of noise, pushing air ahead of itself. All you could do was to brace for the onrush.
There was to be precious little sleeping. All night long bursts of wind were interspersed with the sound of other campers driving away.
Choosing to stay, we could just lie awake, wired in full alert. I had visions of being blown with the sand across the southwest, ending up in a solidified dune somewhere in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, or/and Colorado. What story would my fossilized remains conjure up for future paleontologists? Would they know that the two breaks in my elbow came from skating: the first on the sidewalk at age five, the second on the ice at age twenty-five? And how could they tell I had relished my last moments of consciousness by living into my nickname?
“Why do you call me Windy?,” I ventured to ask my high school boyfriend’s father. For from the moment we met he’d called me that, and would do so well into my adulthood.
My mother had wanted to name me Wendy, but worried that classmates would dub me Windy Wendy, so named me ‘Gail’ instead. And now I was being called ‘Windy’ anyway.
“Because a gale is a wind,” he said simply. “Is that it?” I pressed, half afraid that the real reason was because I talked too much, though actually only to him. A painfully shy teen, in spite of being head majorette as a high school senior, I kept my inner self carefully protected, except in conversations with him.
And he honored that part of me no one else cared or dared to see, myself included. His observation: “You love humanity, Windy, but you are not so sure about people….,” haunts me yet. My ‘windy’ self gravitated towards flying planes and writing poems even while I nursed, taught, mothered, and ministered. Now lying here out in the wind, the very essence of the west, I hear his laughter.
By dawn I am steeped in gratitude, not that the wind has stopped (it hasn’t), but that somebody knew my true name.
Gail, this is beautifully presented and really resonates. I love the power of heavy, storming wind and experience a sense of my own strength while standing up to an invisible force I don’t quite understand. It doesn’t occur to me to be afraid of what I can’t see. Yet when facing human instigated conflicts that try to blow me down, the temptation is to run from them and seek emotional shelter. The difference? Maybe I trust nature more than human nature. The option: take a stand and weather whatever the storm.