Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Yesterday, the wind came howling down out of the Columbia Gorge. Not cold, but fierce, angry. Last night's repose was disturbed by rattling windows, flexing jambs.
This morning, I emerged to find chaos. The ranks of recycling, yard debris, and garbage containers my neighbors and I had deployed along the curb last night were in disarray. Here and there lay a casualty, where the assailant's full force had fallen. One neighbor's yard debris container lay full length on the asphalt, lid flung wide, contents spilled out like brain matter.
The scene brought to mind a time back in 1993 or 1994. My (ex-)wife and I lived in southwest Portland, in a cold little house on 52nd Street, with four giant Douglas-firs in the back yard.
We were considering a remodel of the interior of our house. Our marriage was not going well.
On the day that the contractor came to assess the job, an east wind had been raging for days. The Dougs bent and swayed with the force of it. They sighed endlessly, as if grief-stricken. Occasionally, a loud crack signaled a broken bough. Already our yard was carpeted with blue-green needles and limbs.
The contractor was a jolly fellow, broad-shouldered and hale. He had long curly hair, pulled back in a ponytail and an open face and a booming laugh that defied the wind. His stride was bold, his smile unafraid. His presence echoed in the house, like an opera singer in an empty auditorium. It was strange for us to have so much noise --happy, carefree noise --after having become used to the noise of the wind. In later days, we would recall his laugh.
During the consultation, he posed questions that we had trouble answering. What was it that we were looking for? How much did we want to invest? When did we want to make a decision? As he spoke, my wife and I kept our eyes on him. We didn't look at each other.
The consultation ended and the contractor left. The house fell back into cold silence. But outside, the incessant roar of the wind threatened, as if it were seeking us out for some evil purpose.
It raged on for days. We couldn't decide what to do about the house.
At some point in that time, it occurred to me that human endeavor is frail and pointless. A few days of raging wind could destroy everything.
Then, one morning, I awoke to find that the wind had stopped and I was left with dead, cold certainty.
And so I got up, went outside, and set about cleaning up the yard.