On that complicated and scary ride from the savannah up into the mountains, there was one spot that was scarier than scary, and I can still remember the nightmare I had about it when I was about nine years old. What should be scary about a road, you ask? Well, the Jeep broke down regularly, which made for heart-rocking drama as we stood by to see if this time would be the time Daddy wouldn’t be able to get it going again. My dad regularly hurried out to rescue stranded travelers. No one was around to hurry out and rescue us if this was the time.
But the scary, scary, scary place was called nifas bir. Gate of the wind. My sisters and I called it Down on Both Sides. (Yes, another spot on the road was Up on Both Sides.) If you were to tumble off the road at that spot–as my dad did in my nightmare–nothing would stop the fall. You’d just drop thousands of feet to the valley below. My dad liked to tell the story of the time he came around the bend and saw a leopard sunning itself on the rock. That story added the last bit of shiveryness to nifas bir.
You don’t think wind is scary?
I’ve lived in more than one state in the Midwest where the sky turns weirdly green and the siren rises weirdly up up up and you trot yourself down to the basement to sit until the warning is done. Wind can whirl and lift and smash. But my nervous feelings about wind go all the way back to the time the wind was whistling in Maji and I was watching my dad up on the roof of the house in this picture, trying to keep chunks of the grass from blowing off. In my mind I saw, over and over, the wind lifting the tarp and my dad up, up and sailing him into the valley below.
I grew up in a magnificent world that was not
cozy. Even when I was sitting by the snapping wood fire in the house, I might be listening to the faint roaring outside, wondering if it was Daddy coming back in the Jeep or just the wind rocking the branches in the cedar trees.
On our trip west last week, I saw wind farms in every state. Living in North Dakota, I often listened to wind that seemed to start in Texas and rustle, howling, all the way up the Great Plains with nothing to stop it. Now that powerful wind is caught in the blades like this and somehow turned into megawatts of electricity.
And life all fragile in the middle of it all.