High Desert Winds
“For me, walking in a hard Dakota wind can be like staring at the ocean: humbled before its immensity, I also have a sense of being at home on this planet, my blood so like the sea in chemical composition, my every cell partaking of air. I live about as far from the sea as is possible in North America, yet I walk in a turbulent ocean. Maybe that child was right when he told me that the world is upside-down here, and this is where angels drown.”
I read Kathleen Norris’ Dakota, A Spiritual Biography, fascinated by her descriptions of Abbeys and monasteries, Benedictine monks, and high desert winds…while I was immersed in that soul searing search for that place I could call home.
Although many years have passed since then, I can recall my delight and curiosity about these things while reading Norris’ rich prose. I felt as if I’d found a friend in the narrative of a displaced New Yorker who finds herself suddenly in the midst of nowhere. Never dreaming that one day I would find myself living there too.
After almost seventeen years of living here in the high desert of northern Nevada,
I have become intimate, not with the ‘hard Dakota wind’, but with explosions of winds which roar down from the mountains behind our house so ferociously that when the burst is over, I can touch the silence.
This is a land that is either loved or hated; there is no middle ground here. For those of us who fall in love with the land of snow capped mountain ranges, there is no place we would rather be.
A prelude to rain, snow or perhaps simply higher or lower temperatures, the winds can stop the dogs and me in our tracks and force us to turn our bodies so that our faces are shielded from the force of the assaults.
I laugh when I hear the Reno weather people predicting 60 mph “gusts.” The force of the winds here in our valley is far greater than those in the city 150 miles away. The peculiar saucer-like layering of the clouds we see here predicts the winds; I have seen these cloud configurations no where else that I have lived.
Kristin Myers’ stunning photographs shown below and at the beginning of this piece were taken earlier this week of successive storms. Kristin has captured the power, majesty and yes…awe… inherent in these high desert winds surging through one of the most mountainous states in the country.
The dogs and I hike the mountain trail of the Pine Nut mountains right behind our house.
The Pine Nuts border the northern side of our valley east of the Sweetwaters pictured in Kristin’s photographs.
The trail is called “Pipeline” because of the directed mountain stream from melting snow packs and aquifers alongside the trail. Not as majestic as the Sweetwaters but great exercise for the dogs and me as we ascend a trail on which most folks ride their ATV’s. (photos of the trail are pictured on day three of Jon Crowley’s embedded post)
During our hikes in these turbulent wintry seasons, there are times we must stop and wait for the wind to subside…for the sudden, shocking silence. Like Norris, we are literally bent over, humbled by the sheer purity of energy which seeks to empty us out…make room to perceive the truth right beside us.
As always, thank you for reading,