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Immortality in a Threatening Wind

What a nice morning it had been: moderately cool, calm, and sunny. Coffee Girl and I had just finished a mountain bike ride up an arroyo where, at the beginning of my travel career, I had stumbled onto a "cliff dwelling." Not an official one, of course. But it was possible to imagine turning it into a cliff dwelling or emergency shelter. Back then I took a chance in dragging my trailer upstream in the gravel arroyo, with only my rear wheel drive van. And I camped there that night, and made a fire in the little cliff dwelling, and amused myself with making shadows on the ceiling. (Plato would have been impressed.)

Alas, the cliff dwelling seemed less romantic today than it did way-back-when. This stung. Did it mean that my travel lifestyle had become too predictable and tame?

We laid down for the usual post-ride siesta, relaxing to a movie with a good musical score. But it became difficult to hear the movie because of the howling wind. What the hell was going on, out there!? Since I had already learned the hard way about opening 32" wide doors in the wind, I had a good cord attached to the side-door. Curiosity got the better of me. I opened the door no more than 6" before it almost exploded open into the wind. The finger holding the cord got a nasty rope-burn. 

But I was surprised and relieved that the door had not literally been blown off the hinges. The standard RV doors on cargo trailers are nothing more than aluminum-foil-clad styro-foam laminates, held on by thin aluminum trim that is glued to the door's perimeter. There is no tube frame!

I could not even re-close the door, let alone latch it. And all the time the wind was trying to rip it out of my hands. It was like being a sailor on deck during a storm, and grabbing ropes and ducking masts, all in a state of desperation.  I had to surrender by opening the door fully, which made it parallel to the wind, and therefore, stable.

Now what? Panic, that is what. I started trying to pound the door back into shape with a block of wood and a hammer. Eventually it did close, but it was so tight that it wouldn't re-open.

So I unlocked the ramp door in the back (aka, the stern) of the trailer. It opened by lowering directly into the wind. Thank goodness it wasn't the barn door geometry, like at the back of a van.

But now stuff was blowing out of my trailer, streaming across the mesa. I went chasing it. To a spectator, it must have looked like some slapstick comedy from the silent movie era.

A photo from the archives. It expresses the idea of this post.
But from my point of view, it was no joke. Objects seem to take on a life of their own in the wind. They balance and spin upright, like a spinning bicycle wheel. Sometimes your hand is a matter of inches away from grabbing the object, and then a gust removes it from your reach. These objects and the wind had become almost sentient and malevolent.

After a couple days, I have recovered full operation of the door and rebuilt the inner wood screen door, which had shattered. From the point of view of hindsight, this was a worthwhile experience, an authentic experience with nature.

Long-suffering readers are used to me advertising any experience with nature other than postcard idolatry, which I relegate to the tourist trade. Perhaps the reader has taken a sailing or windsurfing lesson, and experienced fear and panic from a strong wind. It is a primal force in nature.

But just think of humankind's relationship with the wind, through the ages. Most of all, think of what sailors went through in storms, when they were heeled over at 45 degrees, and sliding all over the decks. Most of them couldn't swim, and even if they could, hypothermia would have killed them anyway. At least my trailer and mesa stayed horizontal during this madness!

What courage and skill they had! And then look at me: I hadn't even noticed which corner of the trailer was making the most noise. If I had, it would have told me the wind direction.

While the fear and embarrassment were still fresh, I persisted in dwelling on the heroes of the past. Is it too swoony and moony to say that appreciating their courage and skill was an act of connecting with the eternal, the immortal?

Another photo from the archives, in this case, from my first blog post.


XXXXX said…
Living by the Pacific, we often hear tales of fishermen lost at sea, swept overboard or boats that crack up in a storm. Tried to post this poem by Longfellow, The Wreck of the Hesperus, but it's too long and wouldn't be accepted.

George, you said "often hear tales". Did you mean recent tales, or tales of yore?
XXXXX said…
The power of the ocean is related to your story of the wind since it is the wind that drives the currents and waves. Yes, the tales are current and happen every so often on a regular basis. People often do not understand the power of the ocean, aka, the wind that is driving the water.
People who walk out on a jetty, only to be picked up by what are called "sneaker waves" here.....waves that do not follow the current wave pattern and all of a sudden are much more powerful and knock these people right off the jetty, often knocking their heads against the rocks, etc.
People walking the beach, not looking behind them, only to be knocked off their feet by a log put into motion by the waves.
People who go into the ocean to save their dogs who have chased a bird. The dog makes it to shore. They don't.
And, of course, fishermen who are out at sea for days on end deep sea fishing, who run into a storm and are swept off the deck. It still happens.
The sidewalk along the bay here is strewn with memorial stones set in the sidewalk, each one commemorating a lost fisherman.
Of course, there are tales of yore as well. There are shipwrecks all up and down the coast. The mouth of the Columbia is considered a graveyard for ships. Many many stories.
The ocean is a heartless mistress.
The wind is too.
You are right. One has no choice but to connect with one's mortality, our smallness in the face of such vast power, and that can certainly cause one to search for the eternal, whatever that is.
John V said…
Most RV bloggers would write about the wind blowing on the door of their rig in the most insipid and banal way possible. The comments section would be equally pointless. Somehow, you managed to make it interesting and funny.
Well, that is certainly a handsome compliment. There must be a lot of talent out there in the blogosphere, but they seem afraid of using it. So they stay with the well trodden stereotypes of travel blogs: scenery and "practical" details.