Monday, July 19, 2010
A cruel wind
Thunder rumbles tentatively behind a solid grey, lowering sky. I picture it rolling in a big arc around the mountains, circling undecidedly. Rain could be on the way, but it might veer north. Either way, we hurry along the road, gravel crunching noisily beneath ten feet. With a blue leash in each hand, I march between Bear and Murdoch, their black shapes like bookends, only one shaggier and slightly taller than the other.
The first drops of cold rain fall when we reach the end of the road. I have just unhooked the dogs from their leashes. Murdoch skipping off to find a stick and Bear on the trail of an interesting scent. The air feels heavy with rain, the sky, menacing. I call the dogs back, re-attach their leashes and with profuse apologies, stride out for home.
We outpace the rain, staying within the sprinkle of the leading edge. Behind us, it falls harder and begins to sweep up the road. We reach the house as it starts to pour. The thunder has already moved on.
Inside we watch torrents of rain close in around the house, then, rain blowing sideways, great sheets moving in waves, like flags cracking and snapping angrily in the wind. Grey light falls in at the windows and stops short.
Morgan and I stand in the kitchen, watch the rain gusting back down the road, a roaring wind at its heels. The wind just showed up. It arrived a solid thing with great purpose, like the door of a vault clanging shut. We watch it mold the rain, mesmerized. Then the crack of a breaking tree, thunk and clatter on the roof.
A split second of stunned silence, eyes wide, mouths open. A parody of disbelief. We take the stairs at a run.
I scramble up the last flight to the top of the house and crane my neck to see, expecting a hole with branches poking through, stabbing at the bed, wet leaves and rain. There is nothing. Outside the window on the flat roof of the second story a huge branch curves out of sight. The tree that stands ten feet from the house has lost its top. It hit the roof, left an arm behind, before crashing to the ground, flattening the lid of the barbeque and driving its legs several inches into the earth.
Wind is an ever-present being in the woods. Trees are as much made by it as they are by the sun, earth and rain. It shapes them as they grow, like a river carving its way slowly, over time, through rock. But this wind, it doesn’t belong.
From the bedroom we watch, in the treetops ourselves now. Rain blurs the windows as if we are in a boat at sea where crashing waves slap against portholes. Outside the trees bend almost in half, like nothing more than grass and I am an ant in a field clinging to a single blade.
The animals have all sought refuge in the lowest parts of the house. Morgan mentions something about not being in the safest place where we are, but neither of us makes a move, unable to tear ourselves away from the spectacle of the wind throwing a violent, screaming temper tantrum.
Trees bend away from the house on one side and bang against it on the other. The wind is ceaseless, crashing, angry. Branches pelt the roof. Any minute I expect a tree to break through. For the first time since we moved in I think about cutting down the trees that grow within inches of the house.
Splintering sounds of great trunks being snapped in two fills the air. We feel helpless, will the wind to stop. Then as suddenly as it all began, the trees aren’t rocking so wildly, no longer pounding on the house. The rain tapers off. There is a breathless quiet in the forest, like the hollow silence that follows in the wake of a raging argument.
It starts to rain again as we pick our way through underbrush looking for the gleaming brightness of freshly broken trunks and tangles of roots now pointing to the sky, like someone tilted the world on its side. A morbid giddiness carries us. Our eyes scan as far ahead through the standing forest as they can see. What next? What next?
But there is a feeling of remorse in the air, a sense of things done that can’t be undone. We quietly mourn each tree, try to imagine getting used to so much sky. Even from inside the house the forest feels empty, the holes swallow us up.