Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Constant Kansas wind reassuring

November 1, 2007

If there's one thing Kansans have in common, it's the wind. Nearly everyday whether from south, north or nearly west, it's there to make us stand straighter and breathe deeper. In the shade, it can make a triple-digit day tolerable. It can make a brisk, sunny winter day beyond miserable.

It occurred to me recently that I really like the wind. While it gives the state's bikers, golfers and hairstylists an added challenge, I like to see it gently bend tree limbs, produce waves on wheat fields in the spring, blow leaves from spooky newly bare limbs in the fall and sculpt snow in the winter. I like it when it stirs the curtains and refreshes the house shut down for months against the cold.

More than that, I like its presence. I like it's very physical reminder I'm in the world, which I need as I move from the climate controlled capsule of my car to the building in which I will spend my day or night.

I've known those new to the state who hated the wind. They battled it. It doesn't speak to them as a reassuring whisper of an old friend but as a voice of their isolation. A friend of mine was forced to move back to the East Coast when his wife could no longer tolerate a particularly windy spring.

We're so used to it that a day seems still with a mild 5 to 10 mph breeze that gently sways treetops and flutters the flags at the top of poles. Still days -- really still days in which the air doesn't stir -- just seem wrong.

But even we can be overwhelmed by fall and early spring days when it seems all the air in Texas rushes over the state on its way to the Great Lakes. Those are the days power lines snap and firefighters keep busy around the state battling fires spreading through dried grass.

It gave the state its name through the Kansa Indians, which all the state's elementary students know means Children of the South Wind.

That suggests living in Kansas always evoked a kinship with its moving atmosphere.

I even have an adage of my great granddad about the Kansas wind I can quote because my granddad repeated it to me so often. My great granddad's observation: The coldest wind is the north side of a south wind. The granddad would explain that made sense because we prepared our homes and such for north winds, but the sneaky south wind blew right through our hasty defenses. As for me, the saying calls to mind T.S. Elliot's "April is the cruelest month." The ex-patriot poet wrote that line from London but in Kansas March is the month that cruelly teases us with sunny spring days in which the warmth of the sun shinning from the south is overcome by a chilly wind from that same direction.

But no matter the nature of the wind that greets me each day, I'm happy it's there to anchor my day.

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