The Shape of the Wind

An early-morning sun angle highlights the dune-like patterns on snow outside the kitchen window.

I am not, as I have mentioned in this space before, fond of the wind.

In its rush to be elsewhere, air on the move unsettles my universes: the interior one as well as the world outside. The agitated limbs of the ponderosa pines outside the windows might well be emblems of the jittering of my brain’s branching neurons. Wind rumbles around the corners of the house and whumps the walls with gusts that wake me up at night. The noise of its passing displaces all the normal sounds of the landscape with indistinct whooshes, rattles, roars, hisses. I get restless. Focus comes hard, and small irritants provoke outsized reactions.

Layered drift carvings atop the driveway.

Walking is my usual therapy for bitchiness, but for weeks on end this time of year, being outside is less than pleasant. Wind is an unavoidable factor in my local environment, however, which is why I vowed a few years ago to try to become more resilient in the face of it, a promise that has made me slightly less inclined to complain. I bundle up and go out on days that are merely gusty, gritting through with stinging cheeks and watering eyes and snotty nose. Even if the weather is too warm for it, I wear my wooly hat to muffle the insistent needling at my ears, and to contain some of the whipping of my hair.

I might avail myself of the land’s jumble to walk the side-hill running east of the house, where the momentum of a wind ripping out of the west will overtop the ridge with such momentum that the air catches air. In the relative stillness underneath the passing current, I can stumble along snowbound game trails or pick my way over slick frozen ground while the torrent overhead batters the upper branches of the Douglasfir into seething susurration. I draw the line at battling through unnecessary outings on days when blow-me-down gales are making the electric lines howl, but creating my own movement feels like an act of resistance to a force that seems bent on making me feel cooped up.

Etchings left by wind-spun grass.

My vow a few years back also included a resolution to defang the wind’s annoyance factor by seeking out signs of its handiwork. I had some success early this season, staying alert for showy arrangements in the snow. As the winter got drier, though, and drier still, those opportunities sublimated. By February winter had turned to dust. The mild temperatures created a tempting aspect, all sunshine and warmth, but on stepping outside I’m knocked around, shoved, and generally harassed.

Snowing from the ground up.

By now it feels as if keeping an eye out for the shape of the wind makes me complicit in its blowing, which is an uncomfortable wrinkle in my attempt at philosophical equanimity. When it’s not packaged with a cloudburst or a blizzard, the wind twists itself into paradox—obnoxiously persistent and penetrating, yet also hidden. Without a canvas of snow or cloud, wind is just wind, and to remark upon it only adds my whine to the unceasing moan.

Dust feathered drift…or dune drift feather?

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