I’ve been reading Paul Theroux’s book on traveling through Africa, Dark Star Safari. He’s not happy unless he’s in an uncomfortable situation: on a bus where the road is more like a track through sand, the truck is likely to break down any minute, and the area is known for marauding bands of militias who prey on people whose bus has broken down.
Myself, I’ve never been the kind of person who likes to willingly put herself in danger, and yet when I heard there would be 90-mph winds at my cabin, I didn’t hesitate to throw my computer and bag in the car and drive up there, with the wind pushing my car sideways on icy roads where blown snow had created drifts, obscuring where the road ended and the forest began.
I wanted to experience the strong winds, while hoping they didn’t bring the ponderosas down on the cabin. It’s like seeing nature when it’s stretched to its limits.
At the cabin, all the trees were swaying, dancing to the rhythm of the wind, and I wished them well, fervently hoped they could hang on. Each pine tree is an instrument for the wind, which sets up a symphony through hundreds of trees, producing whooshes and roars that reach crescendos before the next lull.
Inside, the cabin creaked and swayed, with gusts coming through the chimney, the old Coleman propane heater, and every crack in the house. I held my breath as I heard and felt the wind try to prop the roof off and kept my fingers crossed that the roofer knew what he was doing three years ago when he put on a metal roof.
Sitting at the table, I watched the wind drive the snow, creating small whirlpools of white dust all around the yard and on the hillside across the valley, where the white flakes spool across the line of dark pines. It felt like being under siege, like being attacked by a marauding army that comes at you from every direction: above and below, through the trees and under the house.
Even the lulls between gusts were unsettling, waiting for the next one to hit. It blew all day and night, and when I woke up the next morning it was still blowing. Where does all this energy come from? What propels it? Doesn’t it ever get tired?
When I went out for my walk, I had to steady myself on the icy patches, as the winds tried to pull my legs out from under me. Mount Meeker and the surrounding peaks were hidden in the churning clouds of snow, although on the lower hills, the wind whipped up an occasional churning tornado of snow. When I walked back the wind had already erased my footprints.
As for birds, it’s the ravens that love the winds, as if they were a cushioned superhighway, a way to stay in the air forever without moving. Somehow the birds know how to ride the winds without being slammed to the ground, are able to keep their bodies in place so all they have to do is rest on the wind currents, hold steady, while the wind pulls at their feathers. I envy them this ability, wish I could float so serenely on the steady stream of gusts.