The temperature was dropping and a strong wind was blowing when I walked down the driveway after work on Thursday night. I am used to windstorms and cold, so I didn’t think much of it. But the gusts got louder and stronger through the night. Around 2:00am we heard one of the fiberglass panels from our greenhouse dislodge and it began to smack against the side of the house over and over again. An empty rain barrel crashed into the wall of our garage and then found its way from one side of our property to the other. It wasn’t a night for sleeping.
The next morning, the house was cold and outside the wind still blew–30mph sustained with gusts up to 60. We built a fire in the woodstove and when we opened the curtains we could see substantial sparks from the stovepipe flying through the air. The record breaking warm spell from January that had melted all of our snow was over, but the ground remained bare and vulnerable with dry grasses and brittle fireweed husks. Red flag fire warnings, standard fare for May or June, were issued in early February. Thankfully, the sparks fizzled out before they landed.
On my way to work Friday morning, gusts shook the car and blowing grit from early winter road sanding made for moments of no visibility. The pavement was littered with branches and debris. In three places I saw evidence of trees that had fallen and already been removed from the roadway. Halfway to town, a house with its roof torn and folded up on itself made my own sleepless night seem insignificant.
The wind didn’t let up all day. In town, the library and the college lost power. Trees and power lines snapped. Roof shingles sailed through the air. Those of us who ventured out covered our heads to keep from getting dirt in our eyes and mouths. Everywhere it seemed people were on edge after having spent the night mentally holding down their homes and property.
Around noon, although it couldn’t be seen falling from the sky, cold, wispy, dry snow started to appear in the mix of blowing debris. After a few hours it began to accumulate unevenly—still bare ground in exposed places, but a few inches against buildings and in protected places. Finally, before we went to bed on Friday night, the wind stopped as abruptly as it had started the night before. I slept in the comfort of silence and a fresh blanket of snow.
Everything that Friday was—violent, dusty, dark, edgy, uncertain—Saturday was not. The storm had passed, the skies were clear. The voice on the radio reminded me that we’re gaining five minutes of daylight a day.
I drank my coffee and had two productive hours of schoolwork in a sunlit room. Then I dug out my Mardi Gras beads and drove into town to watch the winter carnival parade. The parade doesn’t change much from year to year, but still I go. I love its silliness and its familiarity. It’s the town’s way of not taking itself too seriously. And yesterday, the day after the town felt like it was going to blow to pieces, everyone was relieved and festive and ready to have a good time.
Seeing friends at the parade led to an impromptu get-together of playing old-time fiddle tunes for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Later in the evening, we went to see the Irish band, Lunasa, at the high school. The place was packed and musicians played tirelessly and flawlessly for two solid hours. After the show, we stopped at the Down East Saloon to enjoy Cajun music and one more showing of the Bossy Pants Brass Band that had marched in the parade. People were costumed and sparkly. The dance floor was sweaty and packed.
When we got home at midnight, I sat for a while and looked out the window at the stars. I thought about my day and how many friends I’d seen and caught up with. I thought about the way this town is molded by its crazy weather and its silly traditions. I thought about how I get weary of living here sometimes with the coastal climate, the distance from the rest of the world, the sameness, year after year. But then one sunny, musical day with a parade comes along and any bad thought that’s ever entered my mind about living here is gone as abruptly as the windstorm.
I went to bed with my mind still in motion. I could still see my friends’ children dancing to Lunasa’s hop jigs and reels. I could still hear the old time fiddle tunes I’d played in the cozy living room of my friend’s house. I could still see familiar faces parading through the middle of town—some on bikes, some on floats, some walking alongside their decorated farm animals. I could still feel the rhythm of the Cajun two-step I’d danced with my husband and a hundred other friends. When I finally fell asleep, I was thinking of all of us in this one place, all of us weathering every storm.