Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, June 20, 2008

Winds of Change

“Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is small.”
-Ruth Gendler

I am petrified of storms. When it is windy I cringe, terrified that the roof will blow off and everything I care about will be flung into the pit of the night sky. At my worst times I worried even when there was no wind- I considered that it might start without notice.
It has always been that way. At blustery times I slept as a child with my fingers burrowed into my ears and stayed that way until morning when the gales had hushed and the world was safe again.
When evening would fall and winds began to gather, my heart would tumble to my toes. I relentlessly asked Mater if she thought the wind was bad, if it would get worse, and if we would be all right.
The appropriate answers were no, no and yes, of course.
That was not adequate for me. I had to have a gauge of some sort, and I found one quite early on.
We had a metal dustbin in our back yard and I used that as an instrument of measurement: if it gave the slightest rattle I would panic.
"Do you think the wind will blow off the lid of the dustbin?" I asked time and again of my mother all the way through my childhood.
The dustbin was located near to my bedroom window and I would lie awake ready to block my ears if I thought that the lid was close to taking off.
I never gave much thought to what would happen if the wind did raise the dustbin lid. Beyond thoughts of our roof tiles scattering and all inside being tossed, I attempted to block my mind as well as my ears of such notions.
Then on Christmas Eve when I was seventeen, we had a storm so violent that some parts of our roof were indeed launched into the air. Our chimney toppled. Live electrical wires danced on the roadside. Our battery-operated radio told us that somebody had been killed by a wall that collapsed. Our dustbin lid was not only prised off but it vanished entirely, sucked into the darkness.
I did not put my fingers in my ears at all on that seemingly ceaseless night. I was almost eerily calm, quite resigned to the fact that we were in the midst of the very thing I had always been most afraid of. The thick walls of the house were trembling and the wailing was deeply unsettling.
It was actually happening. The best thing, the only thing to do about it was to sit and talk with one another and hope that the storm would wear itself out with the hours.
It did, of course, and a still morning undid the fear and the darkness.
Mater hunted for as long as she considered worthwhile but that dustbin lid had taken its opportunity and fled the scene. It was gone. It did not entirely take with it as luggage my irrational fear of disaster but I remember that night and the dreadful things that were unfolding all about us. I remember and realise that the morning did arrive, as expected, and the wind beat itself up and then left us to resume our lives. We survived.
My brother's significant other was wandering in my mother's back fields yesterday when she struck gold. She imagined for a moment that she had discovered buried treasure. She strode back to the house feeling rather like a pirate and said to my mother, "did you know you have a dustbin lid buried in your field?"
To her astonishment my mother started laughing, for of course she was thinking of me, and of how my wind gauge had long ago blown away as I had feared it would. Life goes on; the vessel that it covered has long been consigned to the past, and Mater can only hear the faintest childish echo of a voice from yesterday: "do you think the wind will blow off the lid of the dustbin?"


Jaime said...

I love storms...but I remember not loving them so much as a child. I was so afraid of the eerie whistling sound that came through the cracks in the doors, and I had nightmares that the wind was carrying me away.

It's so true that there's nothing to fear really, but fear itself. How interesting that when the *real* storm hit, you were washed in a sea of calm.

Wonderful story, as always.

Anonymous said...

I don't like storms either.
What a remarkable story, though! I can't believe she found the lid. I love these little things that continually bring us back to who we once were...

Barb said...

I too am very fearful of storms. My poor little dog is so scared when a storm hits that she shakes and pants and we fear sometimes she will have a stroke it becomes so severe.

Your story was as always most interesting and how amazing that the dustbin lid turned up as a buried treasure.

Pappy said...

It's been a long time since I heard the term "dust bin" used. Great story. I loved the find at the end to tie it all up.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Jaime, Yes, we had cracks in our house too, windows and doors, and that made it worse. I don't know how it happened that when the storm did hit, I didn't panic like I thought I would.

Courtney, "that continually bring us back to who we once were" that's a great way to put it. It brought closure to the story, finding that lid.

Barb, I know of dogs like that and it's terrible. All you can do is comfort them.

Texican, I don't even use that term any more myself. When I'm at home though that is what I call it.
I couldn't believe she found the lid. I thought for sure it had gone miles and miles away.

hele said...

Yuu are surely one of my favourite tale weavers.

"It did, of course, and a still morning undid the fear and the darkness." together with "the faintest childish echo of a voice from yesterday: 'do you think the wind will blow off the lid of the dustbin?'" - a beautiful pattern.

polona said...

our storms are not life-threatening so i have enjoyed watching them since childhood.

this is another wonderful story and the lid detail is amazing.

San said...

I enjoy storms now, but when I was a kid they did bother me somewhat. The idea of that lid being sucked into the night is a scary one. Maybe I AM afraid of storms.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hele, that's a super compliment. Thank you!

Polona, I really like watching rain. I don't mind storms for that but the wind bothers me so much.

San, "Maybe I AM afraid of storms." That made me laugh, sorry :) I hope I didn't bring out your fear of storms again!

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