Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weather Report: Windy

"You have so many unknowns ahead of you!” my friend exclaimed, folding her hands in her lap like a napkin.

“I’ve always had unknowns ahead,” I answered. “Only now I’m finally being honest about it.”

Today, the wind came. On the prairie, the wind doesn't come and go. It simply is, rubbing against itself, a shrieking whistle that bends the corn and folds the leaves into funnels when it deigns to touch earth. Farmers brace, squint-eyed, against air scraped from the wings of a kestrel, streaking past the clouds, unhindered for miles. When I was young, I would walk to the end of our driveway, unzip my jacket, and hold the edges of fabric out like wings, leaning forward until only the wind supported me. Growing up, I never needed a compass. When the faucet froze, I knew the wind came from the south, and the dairy barn’s door only slammed shut in a north wind. Snow from South Dakota drifted in my yard, filling the ditches until driving became a matter of trust and thin orange markers. Straight lines are the demarcations of the prairie—the horizon from the corn, the highways and field roads: the roadmap of the wind.

This is our 1/4 mile driveway looking due east before we got a snowblower for the tractor; those orange sticks are 4ft driveway markers. The vertical one is simply resting on top of the snow.

But here, in the north woods of Minnesota, I watch the aspens buckle and billow, giving shape to the air, as a distant applause seems to swell and lapse with approval. The pines lift their arms like a farmwife shaking her apron, while patches of brown oak clutch together in a stubborn death. I can hear the tolling of the windchimes beneath my window as the stragglers fall, twisting and shuddering as if on a roller coaster at Valley Fair.  My hair pulls across my face, knots. I don’t know the direction of the wind.

The license plates of Minnesota trumpet its 10,000 lakes, but these reservoirs cluster north of the prairie. Roads along the compass find trouble when they run into immovable bodies of water; survival necessitates an obedient curve. Detour ahead; and an orange sign maneuvers cars through the maze. Perhaps the wind follows suite. For, I move north and no longer drive in straight lines.