The all-mighty force of wind
The Rev. Torey Lightcap
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
It’s two days prior to publication on Wednesday afternoon, and a wicked wind is barreling into Glenwood Springs from the south and west. On one end of my commute this morning, in New Castle, a trash can rolled around with great gusto on Main Street, while on the other end a column of dust 75 feet high swirled like a twister over the confluence at Two Rivers. Can’t wait to see how things have been pushed around on the way home tonight.
This beast of air isn’t always quite so beastly. It’s a mild gust long enough to lure you out in it, and then ” Auntie Em! Auntie Em! ” it shape-shifts into the banshee it really is, stealing shopping carts and making it hard to steer out on the interstate. And with every great effort, blow, and heave, there’s a devilish mounting pressure under my eyes as my sinuses creak in feeble disagreement.
Down on the unsheltered flatlands of western Oklahoma, I grew up with wind as a rule. It picked up red, sandy soil in fistfuls and deposited it granule-by-granule in your clothes and hair, into the crevices of your mouth and eyes. Men working cattle or oil out on the windward side of town could come home and pour the stuff out of their boots.
College was no different. I went to school only about an hour and a half from the town where I grew up, and big blusters of air made pronouncement on most spring days.
The main men’s dormitory was situated on the western half of campus (a good jog, don’tcha know, from the main women’s dorm). The fastest way from there to virtually anywhere was by walking down an alley that went past the back of the chapel, a big bricked number built for permanence and large-scale performances. A considerable bank of air conditioners had been installed to cool the chapel, and these sat inside their own bricked-in yard on the other side of that alleyway. High walls, narrow passage.
It didn’t happen all the time, but it did occur often enough, that a straight, hard westerly would swoop into that alley and keep me from getting back to my dorm room. People attempting to cross that space found themselves unintentionally imitating Marcel Marceau or Buster Keaton, walking with one hand splayed before them, digging in hard against a column of rushing air ” air that was not just air but grocery sacks and newspapers, particles of dirt and kitty litter and unidentifiable bits of fluff. Your own personal hurricane, no rain needed.
Safely inside our rooms, we freshmen and sophomores commiserated, breathed clean air, and waited it out. If it was still blowing hard by dinner time and we didn’t want to chance it to get over to the dining hall, we’d get root beers and order pizzas to come to us.
Some of the time the wind meant that bad weather was on the way. Other times, the thing would slow down a few knots and the sky would clear off, issuing forth one of those jaw-dropping Oklahoma sunsets that blazed blood-orange on the western horizon and eggplant-purple on the eastern, every lovingly rendered hue of red spread out lazily between them. With the sky above so fiery and the ground below dusted in a rosy loam, it was like life on the surface of Mars.
Wind is a primary symbol fundamental to so many faith systems. The Greeks allowed the Titans to wield it seemingly for the sake of violence, while ancient Hindu tradition uses it to birth the light. In Islamic tradition, the wind, with its “countless wings,” carries and surrounds another primordial element, the water.
In my own tradition of Christianity, wind is multifaceted to say the least. In the beginning it covers the waters of creation and is breathed into the nostrils of humans.
Later it carries the voice of God, sweeps up the prophet Elijah, and dumps Jonah into the sea. In the New Testament, it prefigures the coming of the Holy Spirit, and in the Gospel of John it serves as a kind of background reminder to readers that a Word cannot be delivered unless the breath of God sustain it.
Next time you hear some breeze rustling down your street or see it bending treetops, remember that it’s not just air: it’s a symbol, a harbinger, an ancient thing found not only between your house and your neighbor’s, but also between planets (though it’s made of different stuff). Just as with the waters of creation, the wind surrounds you, defines you, makes one with you every time you breathe.
Whatever else you make of the wind, it’s clear enough that whenever it blows hard enough or long enough, some change is on the way. In this case they say it’s one of those fitful May snows. We’ll see.
The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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