Tonight it is loud enough to keep me awake. Roaring shrill through everything, slipping in where it isn’t supposed to be, low and heavy with the dust of the day but other times, bringing mercy from heaven. It has been unbearably powerful and unimaginably soft, and can appear and disappear without so much as a thought.
Prairie, sea, mountain, and desert all know this invisible force: the wind. New Mexico has a special kind of wind, as does each western state its’ own. Here though, the wind is an almost tangible presence. It is constant from February to early July, and returns as a mighty downdraft from ominous thunderclouds in August and September. Back in force by mid-October, it always brings change. It carries in moisture, and carries it out. Those clouds we all pray for would never get here without it, but the wind doesn’t get the credit for the good it does.
I spent a small amount of time ‘back East’ and recall how people looked up at a flag pole, saw ol’ Glory stretched out, and complained that it was ‘so windy!’ when it was only a breeze. Compared to New Mexico’s average spring day, that is, when ol’ Glory never sits still, never flaps in the breeze but pops like a whip night and day. I’ve heard folks from New Mexico come back from Alaska and say the cold was nothing, because the wind never blows. In Virginia I saw snowflakes fall straight to the ground for what seemed the first time in my life. It was just hard to remember seeing snowflakes that were not flying sideways, like a ninja’s throwing stars.
If it sounds like I’m boasting, that’s not the case. Ranch folks and their livestock are forced to deal with this invisible resistance to their every effort for a good part of the year. Little kids, chickens, (all the birds, actually) laundry on the line, and anything else that isn’t tied down can go flying off but you probably won’t see it unless you’re watching from a window-the dust forces you to keep your eyes closed. (True story: my mom lost a hen in the wind once and found her two miles east of the house the next day.) The wind can steal the very breath out of you, too. I watched it carry off a roof once, and various other small structures. Complaining only seems to make it blow harder and longer, but I have done my share of that. Working in the wind wears you out twice as fast as the task itself.
Anyone horseback learns to respect the wind. In fact, we all check the weather…and check it again…before we need to go gather or work anything. Why? Well, checking won’t change the fact that it’s going to blow, but it helps us know which hat to wear and which horse to use. Wind can make some horses afraid of their own tails and nobody enjoys riding one of those all day. Besides that, you’ve never seen the romance stripped away from the West until you’ve seen a whole crew of cowboys doing their ‘romantic’ cowboy work in ball caps (baseball hats). We’ve just learned to hate riding a half mile out of our way just to chase down a hat- darn wind!
It may be night, but the wind is singing through every crack it can find right now and I can hear the leaves outside being shaken off. Wind and ice or wind and fire do a great deal of damage and strike dread in our hearts at times. Most often, people describe wind as ‘strong’, they say it ‘sweeps’ across the ground, ‘driving’ things before it. I have read of people going mad from having to endure wind day after day after day. Old timers can predict the weather by discerning the direction of the wind. It can come from anywhere, and there’s nowhere on earth it hasn’t been.
One thing about wind has always mystified me: you can’t see it. You can’t prove it was there, you’ll never know its past or its future. That and the fact that for all its alleged destructive power, it does so much cleansing and relief, too. It carries pollen from one plant to another and moves the clouds wherever they are meant to go. The ground is literally swept clean, trees are stripped so their branches don’t break from the weight of ice and snow. Deserts conquer and are held back by the wind alone. How is it that something so powerful and so magnificent cannot even be seen?
Then it clicked for me.
It was no coincidence that Jesus made a comparison between the wind and the work of the Spirit in John 3:8. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” At times I look at my own heart astounded that such an ugly thing could belong to God. Other times, my life and my story seem so miraculous, made iridescent by grace. And I have to marvel at it. What is going on here! Tears come hot. Grateful ones. Maybe I don’t know how He is doing it, but His work is perfect. I’ll never know what the wind is up to, but I know Who commands it. He sends it for a purpose, whether to sweep away unimportant things or to drive me to Him, or both...”so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit…”
Tomorrow, the crew will be branding the fall calves in what we hope is a somewhat tame wind. We hope it will let up, but we’ll bring our ball caps just in case.