Friday, February 03, 2006

Going With the Blow

I hate wind. And it hates me just as much. Mere anthropomorphism? Don't be too sure. Living on this flat island in the Atlantic Ocean has convinced me that the wind has both a malignant intelligence and a nasty sense of humor. It's good for nothing but erosion and it's a bad influence on the other elements. It turns harmless dirt into dust storms; it turns rain into typhoons. It turns snow into blizzards. It's a bully. It creates wind-burn and wind chill and wind shear. It makes frost-bite and broken boats and plane crashes and lately it's been trying to get into my house at night. It's like an angry crowd, banging on the doors, whipping the storms off their hinges, rattling the windows, screaming in the eaves and kicking over the lawn furniture. I hate its relentless attention to detail: it yanks every door out of your hand, finds every crevice in your clothing and somehow manages to be blowing in your face, no matter which way you're walking.

In Manhattan, where I grew up, the wind was mostly impotent, blocked by buildings; all those barricades of steel and cement . It was puny and trivial, able only to swirl a stray page of newspaper around your leg or toss some grit in your eye. But Nantucket has no defences. It's splayed out to the wind horizontal and helpless as it receives its seasonal scouring from the Canadian gales.

As a house painter you develop as special loathing for the wind. It sends your ladders sliding over the shiny Tyvek house-wrap, turns your drop cloths into kites and pulls the paint out of your brush. It always wins; if nothing else works, it will sand-blast your finish work with grime. It's timing is always perfect.

I was griping about this last summer when a friend invited me to see the friendlier side of my old nemesis, and go sailing with him. I grudgingly agreed and we went out on a warm day in August, full of energy and optimism, only to be becalmed. As we rowed back home, sweating and cursing, a guy in a speed-boat called down to us, "Tough luck! You can't buy a breeze out here today! Come back in February."

I could almost hear the wind laughing at us.

Well, it's February now. The wind is back and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere until May. It's just going to scream around the island, making sunny days raw and cold nights colder, bucking my car, downing trees and power lines, spewing garbage into people's yards. It's like having a motorcycle gang in residence for the winter. But I try to be positive. Maybe I'll invest in a windmill. They may be loud, ugly and inefficient, but they force the wind to be useful, which it hates more than anything else. A satisfying thought, but impractical: I can't afford a windmill, or a sailboat, for that matter. I've never even managed to fly a kite.

I guess for people like me there's nothing to do about the wind -- except spit into it.

1 comment:

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