Me, my garbage cans, and the spinning of the globe

Wind that whistles is a thrill in the Northwest, where I snuggle in my bed and contemplate the mighty motion of the atmosphere.

Linda Bleck

It’s midnight, and the winter wind is pushing on the house. The house is creaking and popping as though shrugging out its kinks. Every now and then something bangs or clanks or tumbles through the yard, and I run through a mental inventory of unsecured items. Bucket? Garbage can? The chains of the house ghost? This is an old house, basically, with implants. The new parts have up-to-date insulation, but the old part has had lint blown indifferently into its crevices, and most of that has probably settled. 

We’ve got thermal windows, but we never replaced the oldest ones, with their beautiful rippled glass: It would feel like a betrayal, somehow. 

The cold fingers its way in, prodding for weak spots.

Something is blowing in, hard. We’re easily moistened here in the Northwest, but thermally delicate. We can go several winters without the temperature getting into the 20s, let alone lower. So there’s something exciting about this, but wind always excites me. Something’s happening. Something’s coming. 

Two generations ago (in my family, at least), people had ways of coping with cold. They might have preferred not to bring the cows into the barn through a North Dakota snowdrift, but they could do it; they could bundle up, and they could prevail. For thousands of years people have managed to feed themselves and regulate their temperatures. 

Today we are bundled up in layers of tasks – places we think we need to be and things we think we need to do – and extreme weather has turned into more of a calamity. We’re almost undone if we can’t drive to the store.

As I understand it, wind is the movement of air molecules from a place where there’s a lot of them to a place where there isn’t. The fun begins when you get a mass of warm air and a mass of cold air close to each other. The warm air molecules are pushy, and one would expect them to shove right into the cold air molecules, which are just loitering, mostly, and that’s what can happen in a thunderstorm. But when you’re talking larger air masses, the whole planet gets into the game. Because the Earth is rotating, it drags some of the atmosphere along with it. And that gets the air spinning. If the high and low pressure systems get really close together, your garbage cans tumble through the night.

I like to be cozy and comfortable as much as the next person, but this is why the battering wind at midnight excites me, even as I snug the quilt to my neck. I know that my disappearing garbage can is at the whiplash-end of the rotating Earth and the insistent tropical sun; and the garbage can and I are blown-about specks on the beautiful swirling marble we call home. It makes me happy to know how very important I am not. It’s thinking you’re in control of things that leads to despair.

I like things that are much bigger than me, like weather, and the universe. I don’t need to be in control. I’d rather just bang around in the wind and wonder at the rare privilege that is my life.

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