Loving the Wind
Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:
LOVING THE WIND
“How can you call yourself a Kansan if you don’t love the wind?” Dan Markowitz accused me when I ran into him at the Java Cat.
“Um,” I stammered. “Too much of a good thing?”
In a recent column, I wrote about tumbleweeds and western Kansas. While I didn’t really slam the wind, neither did I fully rejoice in its existence.
“The wind, Cheryl. What’s not to love?” he asked.
My friend Dan works at Poehler Antiques. He’s a smart, likeable guy. And he’s energetic – his main form of transportation is his bicycle, which he rides year-round.
Now, I don’t hate-hate the wind. In fact, I have occasionally appreciated the redemptive power of a mighty gust, one so strong that it can blow away sins. But when I don’t feel a particular need for deliverance, I’d prefer to opt out of any kind of breeze over, say, 15 mph.
The wind is such a part of our lives that it might be considered a state mascot. And yes, absolutely, the wind has benefits. For example, wheat needs to be dry before it is cut. So wheat-on-the-stalk is turned over to the Kansas wind for an afternoon of moisture removal.
Another good thing about the wind is that is annoys mosquitoes enough to keep them off of our skin. Ah, something to annoy the annoyer. Wind wins again.
Many Kansans do actually like the wind. Dan calls these people, including himself, “windophiles.” And, if he rides his bike in the January wind without complaint, his love for gusty Kansas air must be true. So I emailed him later, asking him to tell me what he thinks is so great about moving air.
He wrote what he called a “long-winded” response in praise of air currents. Growing up in Olpe in a house with no air conditioning, Dan recalled how the summer breeze cooled the bedroom he shared with his brother. He spoke of happy kite-flying days.
Dan wrote, “And I loved lying on my back and watching white puffy clouds roll across a bright sky, shielding me from the sun’s heat and creating shadows on the ground as they passed by. How do you think those amazing shape-changing clouds passed overhead? It was the wind, my friend, the wind!”
“By the time I was a teenager, my love for the wind was deeply ingrained,” he wrote. “Nothing felt better for a sweaty, dirty farm worker than a gust of fresh air on his face while baling hay in a low-lying meadow.”
Dan told about one recess at St. Joseph’s School in Olpe. “A great gust of March wind caught Sister Emma just right and ripped her veil, a long, dark, heavy contraption, right off of her head. The veil sailed across the playground, leaving Sister Emma standing there, bare down to her wimple. I stifled a laugh (it was never a good idea to laugh at anything that happened in front of a nun) and set out across the playground to retrieve the tumbling veil.
“I proudly walked the veil back to Sister Emma, who expressed her appreciation for my humble service with a chocolate chip cookie from the nuns’ special larder.”
Even this fan of the wind acknowledged its negative aspects. Dan wrote, “You asked how I like it if I’m biking into a stiff northerly breeze on a chilly January morning. The answer is, not much. You have a point. Nor do I like it in the summer when I’m riding south on Highway 99 directly into a strong hot breeze. On those days, it’s particularly bad just beyond Evergreen Cemetery, where the highway starts up the hill that forms the southern edge of the Cottonwood River Valley. For some reason, the wind whooshes over that hill and blasts everything in its way like a furnace. Literally, it’s taken my breath away there, leaving me unable to even curse as I huff and puff my way up to the crest of the hill, where it’s hardly better.”
Nevertheless, Dan says, “I think it’s unfair to judge the wind by its occasional bad conduct.”
I’m giving some serious thought to Dan’s perspective. Wind offers benefits – such as a continual supply of fresh air. And disliking the wind only increases our annoyance. So maybe it is time to appreciate and celebrate air velocity. Wind festival, anyone?
Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh