The Wind

by DRM

I came home last night in a huge windstorm. The gusts we blowing from the west. as my plane dropped down into White Plains, the wind caught the pockets under its wings and batted at its nose like a wrestler trying to grab hold and slam it into the ground.

At our house, the wind felt stronger. The electricity had been out earlier, because of a tree that had gone down, but it was back on when I came up to the house in the car. The lights were muted, the downstairs quiet, the dogs alert but silent when I walked into the kitchen.

The big house was buffeted by the winds outside; inside the air was calm and quiet. I found Tami upstairs with the house, ready for bed and easing into the space just before they slip into their covers. They were waiting for me. I’d been gone for three days. That felt like a long time to all of us. One by one, the boys touched base. Julian excitedly catching me up about the Jets; Luke showing me a new basketball move; Ryan giving me a composed hug and saying, I missed you. Tami and I embraced, felt the comfort of each other’s touch, the binding assurance of each other’s scent.

After a bit, we sat in Luke’s room. Ryan and I were drinking tea; Luke and Julian had warm chocolate milk. Luke and Julian were tossing a tiny football back and forth. Suddenly, a loud band shook the room and Julian’s eyes go wide with fright. It was one of Luke’s shutters swinging against the window sill. “I’m scared,” Julian said. He moved a cushion and slipped into the small space between Tami & I, his knees up to his chest, his heels tucked into his butt, nestled into the crook beneath my arm, his head against my chest, his ankles against Tami’s thighs. He was small and quiet.

What is the worse it could be, I ask. “I don’t know,” Julian says. “The window could break?” He looks expectant, wondering if he has the right answer. He doesn’t want to say whatever he imagines. He is not imagining anything: he just has the fear, the surge of anxiety, that takes control of his body. We know what it is, I say,. It is just wood banging against wood. It won’t break the window.

“I’m still scared,” he says.

The shutter is cut short on the diagonal at one corner to accommodate the peak of the roof on the front portico. The shutter doesn’t have a hook that secures it to the side of the house. It is annoying. Occasionally a windy day will swing the shutter closed, but in this chaotic wind storm the shutter swings back and forth with random force, caught by one blast after another. It bangs loudly against the house. I need to fix it, I think, or the noise will bother the kids all night.

I pull open the sash. The muffled sound of the wind rushes in through the open window. When I swing the shutter back to the house and feel along it in the dark, I realize that I can jam something solid and thin between the edge of the shutter and the roof. The pressure of the jamb will hold the window shut. In fact, the wind working at the space between the shutter and the house, trying to pull the shutter free, will increase the pressure on the bottom corner, increasing the effectiveness of the jamb. As I look around for something to force into the thin crevice, Ryan says, It must be the shutter on the porch that is banging against my window.

Outside of Ryan’s room is a short hallway that ends at narrow French glass doors with thick mullions that open on to a square, fenced porch. The porch is open to the south and east. The short west wall has a window that looks down to the back stairs to the kitchen. The roofline is staggered here. The chimney from the kitchen runs up the side and promotes itself above the steep slope of the cedar shingles. A small cupola sits in the center of the roofline, the three dimensions of its upper peak connecting the brown mass of the roof with the changing vista of the sky. We have four planters in each corner of the porch. They are planted with grasses and leggy plants. A chair and an ottoman are placed in a corner. They are rarely used. The porch floor is the ceiling of the library, a rectangular room off the back entrance, outside the living room.

I open the French doors to check the shutter on the window to Ryan’s room.

The wind is tremendous. On the porch, I am up in the trees. The yard below falls off to the pond, so my perspective gains height as I look ahead, increasing the illusions of proximity and motion.

The wind is roaring in magnificent gusts.

I call to the boys, Come out and see this.

See this display of power, this glimpse opf the awesome power of the wind. It is a living thing, a free spirit, an anima that wanders all across the face of the earth, howling and shrieking.

The wind has no sound, of course. It is force, propulsion: it creates sound through pressure and friction, through resistance and restraint. Air rushes around my head, creates fleeting vacuum pockets within my ear that then burst and echo. The wind blows through the trees like streamers, and the leaves snap and rustle and whinge; the trunks groan and crack. The wind whistles against the angles and crevices of the house, the pockets in the stone walls, brushes along the earth through every blade of grass, every morsel of soil: With tiny shifts in direction, with temporary pockets of still air, small collisions of force occur with atomic irregularity, and the impact creates sound. Strange, unfamiliar, momentary sounds.

The wind is magnificent. The gusts come up. The giant gingko tree, with its wide expanse of tightly knit branches and leaves, turns white in the wind and leans way back on its side. The high larches, stiff and boney, look runious in the ink black sky. The dogwoods we planted in the drive five years ago just reach to the height of the porch now. They are young and limber; the wind snaps them around furiously, and they bend in compliance, looking like four green umbrellas turned inside out in a storm.

The boys were scared at first, but their curiosity got the better of them, and each come to stand with me on the porch in the wind. Ryan looked across to the pool house, where a light had come on at the far side. The sea grasses running down the rock hillside on the far edge of the pool were illuminated by that light. They were helpless in the wind, each large bunch moving as if they had been gathered up in one hand and were being swung forcefully to and fro. The purple heather seed pods at the tops of the long blades looked like small heads of people in the light. “It’s like a horror movie,” Ryan said.

We stood there in the wind. The house enveloped us: massive, stolid, calm. Warm air flowed from the open door behind us, carried on soft light. The wind ranged outside the porch. Our spot was an eddy, catching the stray edge of the gusts. The sky above us was marked by racing clouds. The stars were fixed beyond.

It is a special thing to experience a safe harbor while witnessing the power of a windstorm. We stayed on the porch a little while. Then we went inside to go to bed. The wind kept raging outside. The boys all settled into the guest room bed. They would sleep together in the storm. They would sleep soundly and well. The storm would blow itself out and pass. They would know they were safe and protected, that they could safely marvel at the natural power of the wind.