Monday, 12 September 2011

Hurricane High-Kicks

I'm writing this post in the middle of a ferociously stormy day, wind battering the windowpane behind me,  whishing and whipping up a frenzy in what seems to be the high-tail end of a hurricane passing by!

Yay! I love stormy days. Routine bites the dust and everyone is swept away by a gusto of awed annoyance. Normal conversation is out; comments on the weather in - the refrain 'it would blow you away out there!' not a weather-monger's exaggeration anymore, but a shuddering real possibility! How exciting!

Is there anything like a stormy day to blow the cobwebs away?? Clear the head, big-time. "There'll be no sleepwalking around today" a woman commented to me earlier. Hell no! Not when there's a hurricane in town and the only thing on your mind is walking successfully through it! Storms put us back in touch with this great  physical planet of ours and away from the whirlwind in our heads we may be caught up in. Nature when loud, makes herself heard above all other common cacophonies. Hence, the mighty cobweb-blasting.

While storms offer up all kinds of metaphors and allegories to a writer, this one  just occured to me today while wind-walking (ah, i.e. almost para-gliding): that walking against the wind must be what it's like to go against Fate, or against the current of convention. The physical equivalent. Damn hard thing to do with a wailing wall of steel in front of you, pushing you back, screaming you down, gales bashing and lashing up a fearful stupor of inferiority, rendering you helpless and hapless.

(Whoa, there it goes again, the wind getting up. Not whistling, but roaring!) No wonder it's personified all the time, as compared to the other elements. Some writers have even referred to wind as having a 'spiritual energy.' Didn't the Holy Spirit after all, manifest in the Bible as great gusts of wind? Maybe it's the sheer invisible power of it that embues it with such significance.

Then there's the emotional element, with storms being an allegory for emotional states and emotional crises (explored in the poem below by Adrienne Rich). Talk of weathering the storm, battening down the hatches, preparing for stormy days, knowing the storm-clouds will pass has become almost clichéd in our emotional language de jour. Lots of writers have explored this facet. Weather is perhaps the most ubiquitious metaphor to a writer, who can use it for figuratively moulding and describing our changeable emotional psyches.

And there's the Dorothy phenomenon also. As in Wizard of Oz Dorothy whose house was lifted and transported to Oz by a tornado/twister. The magical-realist-fantastical element to a storm. You can't help but think of that on a stormy day! Take a falling slate on the head, fall, blank out - and hey presto - you're on a yellow-brick road to enlightenment! Or maybe it's another way of saying that in with a storm blows realisation, of some kind or other (not necessarily including a wizard.)

What I like about storms too is the primitive mode they put us in. Batten down the hatches, ride it out, with supplies and survival tactics at the ready. The snuggled-up-and-stay-indoors policy. They're the only encounter with real natural 'danger' most of us will experience. And they set the adrenalin on high alert, reminding us that we're alive and there's a big bad wailing world out there, trying to huff and puff our neat self-made securities down.

They also carry an essential ego-check for us: we're pretty much helpless in the face of the elements' power. 'Man has need of nature, but nature has no need of man' is something we should not forget. Nature in all her malevolent glory is majestic and menacing. Even metaphysical. As writer Joan Didion has noted, 'the wind shows us how close to the edge we are.' It reminds us of our mortality and of each moment blowing through time, adding a sweep of meaning to the otherwise calm (and sometimes claustrophobic) mundane. 

On that note, I'll sign off and get back to storm-enjoying, 

Have a safe day!

~ Siobhán.

'Storm Warnings'- Adrienne Rich

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky

And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction. 

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters. 

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.


  1. Ah YES, precisely my view of stormy days. YAY! I am not as alone as I thought on this. For a writer a wet day is a blessing. I love the sun and hate to be indoors when it's bright outside. But my lap-top hates sunlight and refuses to answer when I tap my words into it. Or, rather, it answers so quietly behind its shield of sunlight that I cannot see it. The Adrienne Rich poem says it all and wonderfully. I love and enjoy your blog Siobhan, and all the work you put into it. Keep informing us and keep sharing your vibrant and evocative thoughts. Namasti.

  2. Thank you Dana! Will do. Namaste.


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