Thursday, March 26, 2009


For the last two mornings, I’ve awakened to the sound of wind keening underneath the eaves of the cottage -- a sound that evokes strong images of all the big winds I’ve encountered during my lifetime. On The Mountain here at Sewanee, I hear people talking about the ferocity of wind that occurs on the bluffs where many have built homes to enjoy the view of the valley below. I wonder how many of them have really experienced the destruction that bigger winds bring.

I’ve heard the howl of Louisiana hurricane winds traveling at a rate of 175 mph, have experienced dust storms that blew sand under the door sills, driven by wind in El Paso, Texas and endured the “Nor’Easters” in Limestone Maine during a winter sojourn in New England. Then, there are the hot winds that blew during blinding dust storms in southern Iran where I lived for two years… and the great gales of the Santa Ana that blew over the desert in Palmdale, California where I visited my daughter every summer for 20 years.

My fascination with wind began during childhood when my mother read aloud to me and my siblings from A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSE by Robert Louis Stevenson: “I saw you toss the kites on high/And blow the birds about the sky;/And all around I heard you pass,/Like ladies’ skirts across the grass--/O wind, a blowing all day long,/O wind that sings so loud a song!...”

In an article in “Science Daily,” I discovered the fact that easterly trade winds in the Sahara desert carry great clouds of dust across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean and Americas and bring with them microbes which cause respiratory problems, as nearby as Florida. These microbes pose a health risk in the entire western Atlantic region, and they’re borne on the mouth of the winds from Africa.

The Big Wind, a hurricane, blowing hard and steady, figures in two Young Adult narratives I’ve written – THE KAJUN KWEEN and MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM. Wind takes first place in MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM in the opening paragraph: “The wind howling under the eaves and ramming the old cabin in hard waves woke me up. The steady push of noise made my stomach tingle and my throat close up. I swallowed hard, knowing that the sound of the angry wind wasn’t going to stop – it was a full-blown hurricane…” In the KAJUN KWEEN, comic book heroine, Petite Marie Melancon, (shown in the illustration above, rendered by Paul Schexnayder) challenges the Big Wind by tying herself to a tree in the middle of a hurricane. Fortunately, she’s coaxed indoors by her Uncle Ti’ Joe before the storm gales take her away.

The highest wind speed that has been recorded by weathercasters occurred during a severe thunderstorm blowing at 231 mph in New Hampshire. The fact that followed this information explained why I awaken to that keening sound every morning – the windiest month in Tennessee is March! The subject of wind intrigues me, and I ponder whether I should buy an anemometer, an instrument used to measure wind speed. Meanwhile, the noisy gusts continue, and I replay in my mind my mother’s recitation: “O wind a blowing all day long/O wind that sings so loud a song!”
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