Letter From Home: “Wind” 3/18/12


Most days there is a wind blowing at our home.  Regardless of the month or season there is always a wind, and often a brisk one that reminds me that the air currents are always struggling for control over Lake Monona.  Off the lake, arcing up over the drumlin left by the last glacial action, and then surging inland the wind whips and blows.  As I sat outside today enjoying spring-like temperatures (76 degrees) I thought again how much I enjoy the wind.  Even though there was no way to control the Sunday newspaper in my hands I had to smile as the wind blew my memory back to my childhood.

As a boy I loved to get bundled up in winter and venture around the house and head in a southwesterly direction.  Some of the best winter storms blew in from that direction.  I can still see the sky colored a grayish-dark blue and the horizon blurred with a foggy whitish hue.  The snow that was blowing came in sheets and the blasts that drove them would take my breath way as I made the turn around the family home.  I would turn my head and gasp for a breath, and then again face the onslaught of wind and walk into the snow piles that drifted in the same place where summer picnics would have occurred the previous July.

The summer months would offer wind storms of the severe kind that always found me waiting until the last minute to head inside the house or garage for safety.  The greenish skies which always foretold a storm’s wrath were compelling to watch until common sense overcame my curiosity.

I still recall the wind whipping as I held onto the door handle of my Dad’s Buick parked in the driveway one summer night, feeling the first stings of sand in the storm as they bit my skin.  “Get in the house!” was the only sound louder than the wind that evening as my Mom’s order traveled down the driveway.

My mom was not a fan of strong winds.  These many years later I can better understand some of her reasons.

Living in the rural area of Hancock, Wisconsin she had to contend with the irresponsible farmers who did not use sound agricultural practices to prevent their top soil from blowing out across the country.  Many a warm day in the spring we could look off to the west and see the sky colored with a dirty grime as the dirt blew about.  My mom would place a rolled up towel on the windowsills, and then in the mornings she would wipe the sills and screens so they were again clean.

In the winter Mom would watch almost religiously so that the pilot light would not blow out of the heating stove when the high winds would whip about outside.  Often a blast over the chimney would suck the oxygen out, taking the flame with it.  If it was not the stove to worry about the swaying and lifting of the canopy on the front of the house during winter’s wrath would ensure my Mom would let all know she hated the wind.

My Dad had a different relationship with the wind.  Often on a brutally hot summer day in the last several decades of his life he could have been found in a lawn chair under a huge oak in the back yard.  Again facing off to the southwest the wind would rush over our land and he would say “Feel that breeze!”  Too often through my whole life I can recall that once the sun went down in the summer a stillness would settle, and the hot sticky darkness would take hold.  My Dad was aware of that, and so took relish of the breezes when they offered themselves.

I think Mom would however enjoy the winds blowing off the lake where I now live.  After all, there is nothing to worry about here like she had to think about when I was younger.

Needless to say throughout winter the wind makes our home colder.  With only “dead-space insulation” in this Victorian home (which was the norm at the time) as a barrier to the outside means that comfortable sweaters are always stocked in the closet.  When this home was built in 1892 out of white pine it was made to last against any wind.  Being a history buff I very much enjoy the ‘real feel’ of living here.  Granted, central heating and cooling makes it comfortable, and yet when the wind blows and it comes in around the ‘coffin door’ I am reminded of what the first residents here experienced, and I smile.  I think part of living in these homes is to experience them.

As the wind blew about today I was reminded that there is, in spite of all our attempts to control things, a strict rule which remains in place.  Mother Nature will trump everything else.

This weekend the newest couple to buy an old home on the block had two workers over to give the lawn a spring spruce-up.  The home sold for roughly $450,000 late last year, and so I thought for sure the owners would be pumped about their new lawn and be eager to be in total control of their property.   Who would not want to putter about and consider the possibilities? Instead two workers with rakes and a leaf blower spent almost two hours making sure that every single leaf and dry twig was whisked away.  Over and over the blower was used on the lawn and sidewalk and down the drive, and then repeated.  Bags of debris were carted away.

Then the winds started blowing again today.  Leaves bounced around, old small twigs popped loose from trees and fell to the ground, and dry this-and-that tumbled about.  Not lots of stuff, as most have been raked from area homes and taken away, but still enough to say that no lawn remains pristine.

There is a time to rake, mulch, and mow.  There is a time to tidy up, but also a time to feel the best that Mother Nature provides, and be at ease with what is at hand.  As my Dad would say as he sat in his chair on a Sunday back in Hancock, “Feel that breeze!”

And so I did.

2 thoughts on “Letter From Home: “Wind” 3/18/12

  1. Norene Schreiner

    Lovely writing. My mother, too, dislikes the wind, and you have given me some perspective as to why. I can picture my own father, taking a break from evening chores, studying the sunset, enjoying the breeze.

  2. Gern Blanston, freelance malapropist

    I had been skipping over your “letters from home” series. I am so used to serious personal reflections (unless safely encased in a larger point on the topic of the day) saccharine, self-important and sluggish. There is bad writing of a certain type that seems to be abundant, I guess it reminds me of the stuff I was forced to read written by a girl in knew in H.S. I was nice back then and pretending to like that junk was a daily and miserable chore. Now that I’m no longer nice I realize how lucky I am. Because now I can say “I love this” and mean it. This was so enjoyable to read, a fresh breeze in itself. I need a wreath of laurels to smash down firmly upon your head (only so the brisk wind does not blow it off of course) Lacking that, I will share my thoughts –

    The attention to detail is excellent, the kind of “sensory involvement” of the reader throughout is maintained really well (btw I have always noticed that a certain type of “cozy” escapist murder mystery always used a lot of reader-sensation to get that heavy connection. The feel of fabrics, the colors in a room, the rustle of skirts and tic of the clock, the way the light falls on the old tea service, the burlap textured book cover, the smells of the local pub, that sort of thing, lots of reliance on food imagery too. )
    Most rare in most writing is the tone of humility. No posturing like you’ve decided to speak for Everyman. Nothing cutesy-cryptic that implies if means “something” but most certainly does not. (as epitomized by the abominable snowman known as Bon Iver)
    However, your humility is really balanced out by the sense that all of what you are thinking about here is of absolute significance to YOU. So like you’re suspended between the self-realization that you are but a spec in the Universe, but a spec who is looking down on or in at their own Universe, just as vast and complex. I think most people have to be mature to get to that viewpoint BUT I would argue few actually do. And obviously there are a lot of people who have great insights and viewpoints and memories but they don’t “share them” in an “artistic” way. In those cases I guess just mundane conversation becomes the joy and the “art form”. My own grandmother had an 8th grade education and was so weary of the “world” that she was a complete recluse for decades. But after a few words it would become apparent to those who did meet her that she was quite a rare bit of art in an old print dress and heavy black shoes.
    If I may blather on, I once read that all true creative acts are like messages in bottles. You immerse yourself in it while “making it” , you’re alone on your Island trying to find the “right” words that will reach someone and connect. then you just let it go. Having NO IDEA what the reaction will be or if it will even be picked up ever. This attitude knocks out all the people making and writing with full awareness of their audience, thinking about how “popular” they will be, how admired, how they’ll get on the radio, get elected, get invited to that conference, or get laid more often by hotter chicks. blaargh.
    People DO create/perform with that kind of baggage all the time. However, you can usually sense it, it taints the product. So, while YOU personally are obviously “hopelessly in love” with the poetry of these moments you write about, you ARE NOT assuming the reader will be too. That is the humility I refer to. Now go take a victory lap around that windy old house of yours. XD

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