Living on the cusp of Calgary I’ve learned to welcome wind wandering through my neighborhood, winding around my trees, and whistling under my windows. On a day like today, I take my cue from Dusty as he braces into the wind with his ears turned inside out. I let it brush through my hair, whipping errant strands over my face, forcing me to close my eyes as I lean forward. I’m walking in a November wind on a sunny afternoon, but I’m wondering if I should surrender and retreat to my warm, cozy kitchen.
As Dusty and I turn the corner on the road, I realize that the wind has sidestepped to my right, swinging the realtor’s For Sale sign at the corner house. It’s banging noise sounds like a warning to any prospective buyers, “Prairie Wind is not for the Weak-hearted!”
When we moved here over 16 years ago few trees halted the wind as it rushed across the fields from the west. I actually called the builder one day to inquire about a horrendous sound that shook the side of our house as if a large tractor-trailer had been speeding by on the farmer’s road. I thought it signaled a weakness in our wooden porch, but he laughed and said, “That’s just the howling wind.”
Now tall spruce and poplar trees tangle the wind in their branches and mute its scary screeches. I’ve become accustomed to its unpredictable nature, but thankful for its precarious ways when it breathes warmly upon us as a Chinook in the dead of winter. Yes, today I focus my gratitude into the wind and accept its whipping, whirling presence.
As a young girl I enjoyed the privilege of hopping onto an amusement park ride on the way into town. Some forty years ago, Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania didn’t charge for a day pass to access all the rides, instead it sold separate tickets which were cashed in at each individual ride. Back then a through-road divided the park from the parking lot, allowing cars to transverse the area and drop off customers right at the ticket booth. Many times my sister and I scrambled from our family car to line up to buy tickets as my mother circled the parking lot to find a spot from which she could watch us. Then we would take our prized tickets to gain entrance to our favourite ride, The Whip.
It’s a tame ride by today’s standards, but back then it turned up our adrenaline as we were whipped by the wind, and tossed around each corner of the circular track. We leaned to the side on our seats, only to be thrust against each other into the opposite corner as the small car rumbled past the straight-a-way and heaved headlong into the bending curve. We laughed, and we screamed into the wind as it caught our cries within its grasp.
When we ran down the exit ramp, mother would drive down to pick us up. Boosted by the rushing wind, we could face a boring trip to the sewing area at the department stores in town. Whew! Windblown and wind-driven we braced for the rest of the day. Mother sewed most of our clothes in our early childhood, so we would spend countless hours looking at pattern books, choosing material, selecting thread, buttons, zippers and other necessary sewing items.
I’d like to say that The Whip still operates at Dorney Park, but it belongs in another era, in a time when the wind could still excite and delight amusement park goers. Maybe that’s why I’ve made my peace with the Prairie wind. I don’t mind if it suddenly sweeps in on one side or the other, I don’t judge it for causing my trees to lean into it even on sunny days, and I don’t hide from it in behind closed windows or doors.
I walk about in it, with Dusty, with our faces shocked by its bitter cold, or at times surprised by its wondrous warmth. Now that I’m older I don’t have to buy a ticket to enjoy being whipped by the wind.