Friday, January 12, 2007

Apocalypse Now

It began as I arrived to work at the water plant yesterday morning, a lovely pinch of glitter flitting sparsely from a black dawn sky tinted mauve where the sun intended to rise. Ten minutes later it was gathering steam, and by the time it was light at 8:00 it was an impressive whiteout with horizontal winds that sculpted and repeatedly reformed crusted, floury drifts across the parking lot and down the alley between the old plant and the new. On the slippery roads at lunch I steered the Cadillac left onto Front Street- intending to go north- but kept turning, spinning slowly but surely on the snow , until I was facing south. I drove up to the State Hospital and turned around in the parking lot.

It stormed all day and into the night, blowing so ruthlessly and relentlessly that familiar features of the landscape were blotted out or camouflaged and it was impossible to tell whether fresh snow was falling or the old was just getting rearranged. The wind invaded every space and left a calling card of fine, icy powder inside doors and windows. The steps to the U.V. reactor completely disappeared and the pump house hatch was buried. The keyhole on the lock was filled with ice.

The vicious east wind continued all day today, depressing the temperature to -27. I bundled up to check the U.V. and pump house this afternoon, but even so, the wind was agony on the
bare five square inches of my face, causing my sinuses to ache and burn as if I'd gulped an icy beverage too quickly. Stumbling blindly down the hill I began to hear a strangled noise, but before I paused to seek the source I realized it was me, whimpering piteously into my gloved hands, which I had clamped over my mouth and nose in an unconscious and desperate attempt to block the wind.

I am aware that there are far less hospitable places on the planet, but during an east wind in southwestern Wyoming, they are difficult to imagine. I spend the worst of the winters here dreaming of my beloved San Diego's perfectly temperate climate and hazy winter beaches. I think of tropical shores and blazing deserts and places with enough humidity year-round to prevent human skin from declining into a cracked and bleeding veneer of crumpled, dusty paper.

This is nothing new, and it isn't over yet.
Even weather.com promises "bitter cold," and those pages aren't known for overly dramatic parlance. So I find myself projecting, scheming, counting down the years or months or days until I can make a break for it and flee to a paradise with palm trees and sailboats and birds of prismatic plumage. In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to use my imagination.

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