This is my first full spring in the desert and I’m not loving it. I knew, from word and brief visits, that it could be windy here in springtime. “Heck, it’s windy anywhere that time of year,” I thought. But wind here is something cosmic — even worse at times than the howling gales that are part of Wyoming’s very identity.
We’re under high-wind warnings two to three days a week right now. And that’s not to say that the other days are calm. Merely that they’re windy enough to be annoying and to make havoc of both your housecleaning and your hair, but not likely to blow large objects or columns of stinging, blinding sand at you.
There was a time when winds like these would have driven me to screaming-mee-meeism. A few days of this and I’d weep and wail and have fits of melodramatics I never knew the adult me was capable of. Now I merely hate them with every fiber of my being and long for brighter latitudes every moment of every endlessly windy day.
And “better” yet — I’m currently living in a friend’s trailer (sans friend) which rocks back and forth in every tiny zephyr. And is as perforated with air-holes as a trespasser’s fanny after an encounter with bird shot. Heavens, what a saint I am for enduring such trials so patiently!
Uh oh. Was that another attack of melodramatics coming on? (Actually, use of the trailer has been a great bounty; I just like to whine sometimes.)
Funny how movies set in these high-desert places never show the perpetual Chinooks. Oh, they’ll show wind if the plot calls for surviving a sand-storm. But daily life in the movies’ desert west will be conducted in the calm — nary a cowboy hat or golden lock out of place. How do they do that, anyhow? They can’t have filmed “High Noon” or “The Outlaw Josie Wales” on a sound stage.
Here, in reality, the wind blows. And so it goes for weeks and months — ironically those very months that should be the best times of year. Hunching against the unholy blast of the dry blizzard, sand in your hair and grit on your skin (not to mention red dust clogging up the works of every electronic device you own, giving them all an average lifespan of six months), you dread stepping outside — but in a life of living off-grid, you have to because you can’t even take a shower unless you trek to the barn — and when you have to go out, you feel you’re being buffeted by the demons of fate (uh oh, there I go again). (I think that was just a completed sentence, but at the moment I’m not sure, so please pardon me.)
You find yourself almost longing for winter, when days are often as still as a Christmas card. Ten-below? Who cares? When it’s that cold, the wind isn’t blowing. A snowstorm that traps you behind the washes for two days? No big deal. Just let me have some days afterward of calm, still air. That’s how crazy is this place. No sane person would want to be here. It’s miserable when it’s miserable. And it’s even more miserable when it’s supposed to be nice.
And finally — yes, really finally — after all of Deepest Dantean Hell’s unleashed unnatural forces (yeah, there I go again) — the nearest neighbors and we were just having a lunchtime chat yesterday about how many of the rattlesnakes on our respective properties are the dreaded Mojave greens — serpents whose bite would be fatal to any human and to any dog — even if the dog has had a course of rattlesnake immunizations, as my youngest and dearest has. (With my older two, I rely more on their brains to keep them out of the snake’s mouth.)
Nobody was really quite sure about how many of our poisonous snakes are those green killers. But the neighbors do commonly vie with each other for the most dramatic snake-encounter reports, and even your basic garden-variety rattler, of which there seem to be dozens of kinds, will make your life wretched enough. This is a common topic over coffee in these parts.
We’re the Edward Abbey version of garden-club ladies discussing begonia blight. That’s us. Only our blights will kill us.
Yep. Lovely place this is. Drive a body to suicide — or drive a more sensible body OUT. It may eventually beat me. I was not made for this. I was born to green and blue, to water flowing everywhere, all the time. I was born to land where you could come upon a waterfall in any empty acre of the forest — small, humble waterfall, but waterfall nonetheless — and where wild cress grew in stagnant pools and deer peacefully grazed — on actual grass that actually grew without the help of five Mexican gardeners — and I’m not sure whether that was just a full, coherent sentence again, but anyhow, I belong in drippy, wet places where the native joke (every region has one) is that if you stood to long in one place you’d grow moss on your north side. Places where wind, when it rises at all, rises only in conjunction with proper rain or snowstorms, which of course make it a perfectly understandable phenomenon and totally acceptable as a temporary visitor.
And this, do I need to say again, is not my native land?
Yet I may be soon (or not, it’s uncertain) committing to a deeper level of involvement here. It’s not sure yet.
But if I do it will be for one reason: friends. Although I, the hermit, require days of solitude and hours of silence, friends matter more than the double-damned winds.
Well, it’ll be for that one reason and a bit of luck. Also a bit of random choice. Perhaps more on that later.
And beauty. Can’t forget beauty as a motivator. She’s one alluring phantom. And in its grand, dry, sweeping-to-the-horizons way, this place is beautiful.
Oh, and because all that wet only gets warm about 20 days out of the year, the region has the highest suicide rate in the nation due to its perpetual and pervasive gloom, and your entire collection of firearms (already quite feeble) rusts, and there are slugs the size of baby whales slithering all over your lawn. (Salt. It’s both pesticide and extremely morbid entertainment in the Great Northwest.) Not to mention that the first European explorers who sighted the place took one look at its dark, impenetrable forests and declared it “uninhabitable.” I was fond of it. It was my world. And there were (and are) friends there, too.
Yeah, there’s all that.