Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dust to Dust

While reading Anne of Green Gables to my daughter, I heard the wind suddenly rise. My little girl slid over to the window and pushed the blinds upward to reveal a brown-grey sky and trees that whipped toward the west. We watched this phenomenon while my husband raced outside to save some ceramic ware we had on the patio table. My daughter held the sliding glass for him, and the thick air bit her eyes, making her turn aside. Meanwhile, I was gaping at the noise and dust rushed into my waiting cavity from the open portal, which set me to smacking my mouth in distaste.

This western town is built on desert, so a powerful wind whips up the fickle soil into a restless and engulfing dust storm. It browns out the world, and throws one back into long ago images of a barren desert where this great city now stands or makes one think of cowboys hunched up in their dusters, hats down to protect their eyes on open ground while they listen to the sharp complaints of their horses.

But there's also something about a strong wind's strange howl that makes one feel as if one should be in, as Gordon Lightfoot once said, "a castle dark or a fortress strong". One might be alone with the wailings of a restless ghost, or hiding from the ragings of a blood thristy villian. Or, more pleasantly, one might be running toward one's beloved in the broad hall whose return from battle, while long desired, was improbable. The noise, especially as it thrashes the boughs of trees, is very emotive, and it stirs up the imagination and manipulates one's thoughts.

My eldest girl and I turned out the lamp, so we could sit together, watch, listen and imagine. Outside the window, it looked as it does when rain obscures the landscape with its torrential streams. But there was no rain in those artificial ground-hugging clouds - only dirt. After we had watched the wind die down and resurge a few times in the trees, I sent my girl to bed.

The storm subsided shortly after. I did not even have a chance to fear. For during most summer storms, I sit in the dark of a recliner in the living room, a sleeping child on my lap, and dread the enormous eucalyptus in our front yard, waiting for their branches to splinter in the frenzied wind onto the roof of our home. I have no doubt I will keep that anxious vigil sometime before summer is through.

This morning we found the evidence left from the previous evening's fifty mile dust storm. We went out early to eat our breakfast on the patio before the heat could slaughter that pleasure, and there was no place to set our dishes, our newspaper or our bums. Everything was layered with the grit of mother nature's whim.


  1. This reminds me of Mexico rainstorms and dust storms. Everything covered in either dust, or the entire landscape changed once again (because after all, if its going to rain in the desert...its going to rain good).

    I'm glad this was whimsical dust storm full of imagination and family bonding.

  2. I'm glad you got a chance to go to Mexico. My dad spent a whole summer there when he was 17. Though I have never been, I think of Mexico as being a very dry place - except for the lusher coastal areas.

    I like the dust storms here - as long as I don't have to be in them :-) I always enjoy a good howling wind, too.

  3. "One might be alone with the wailings of a restless ghost..." This is exactly how I would imagine a dust storm, though I've never experienced one. I've been only once to the southwest, and it certainly does have its mysteries. Wonderful, evocative piece, Hillary--especially as I sit here listening to the rumbling thunder of an incoming storm. :)

  4. Perfect timing for my post, then. :-)I love listening to an incoming storm when the wind suddenly picks up.

    Where in the southwest did you visit, Jayne?

    I imagine Rhode Island is a lovely place, though I've never been anywhere north of Washington D.C.

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