For the second morning in a row, a raw wind is howling through the trees, reminding me once again that once upon a time the world outside my window--when there was no window, when there was no house, when there was no me--was all grass as far as you can see, nary a tree between here and the Big Sioux River, fifteen miles west.
Oh, we've got 'em now, two patriarchal maples out front, and trio of old statesmen to the north, lindens--all of them as much immigrant as I am here. Several years ago, I told a Denver landscaper that I really ought to say sweet goodbyes to those mangled old maples, and he was shocked. "I know people who would pay almost anything for big trees like those," he told me. "Why on earth would you cut 'em down?"
They're still here.
But they're battle-worn, their canopies gapped, splintered butts of long-departed branches jutting up hither and yon, ugly as battle scars but homes for squirrels and starlings. Our two front-yard maples are not pretty. Right now, at this moment, I can almost feel their terrorized psyches; they've been punished for 36 hours just for the temerity of thinking they can live here in tall-grass prairie country. If the weather forecasts are accurate, more of the same is coming until tonight, and somehow I think they know that. They've had 60 or 70 years of active duty here on this hallowed ground. They're really beat up.
We're in some kind of change of seasons thing, and we're getting it in spades just as we get every other possible weather event out here. Snow's coming in dumpster loads out in North Dakota as we speak. Who knows?--maybe we'll get our share of the same soon enough. Already something is flekking the air, and it's not just liquid; it ticks on the windshield.
You wonder how on earth those Lakota kept the teepees down in wind like this. Shoot, in this wind and what's coming, I'm guessing the buffalo are looking around for an empty confinement.
It's here and it's coming, much as I hate to admit it.
We've been blessed by a sweet month of perfectly grand weather out here on the emerald edge of the Great Plains, enough to make us feel we really aren't really living where we are.
We've fallen for the sweet-talk for more than a month, but we are where we are--and the howling outside through those bedeviled trees, scared to death as they must be, is proof that a sweet October fantasy lulled us into believing that we aren't here at the edge of what Zebulon Pike once called "the Great American Desert," a phrase that stuck even though it couldn't be more wrong.
Oh, well, you know what they say up there in North Dakota: "Forty below keeps out the riff-raff."
I'm sure we'll make it. I'll just have to wear a hat and, this morning at least, pull it down really low.
Because winter's coming.