“The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”
Roaring through the arches of the patio, the wind here is mournful and heavy, almost a tangible presence.
My parents live in the desert, a desert that ambles down to the water’s edge, but if all you knew was the sound of the wind you’d think they lived on the open prairie.
I remember a line in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about women on the prairie going mad from the combination of relentless wind and isolation. How much different were the women who lived here? Were they more resilient? Were they more mentally stable? Or is wind one of those things that spooks even the strongest of us, as it whistles through our hair and tickles our skin.
Outside, it sounds of pan-flutes and empty bottles, of breath and sadness.
And yet, the wind itself brings refreshment, cooler air, fewer insects, even as it stirs up clouds of dust and dries your skin.
If you’re already close to the edge, even the slightest breeze could push you over.
And if you’re not? If you’re well-grounded with your feet firmly planted, does it nudge you toward that precipice or merely tease you with ghostly caresses and wordless whispers?
It’s power and breath and life.
But not always discernible.
“Is the wheat okay?” I asked my mother earlier tonight. I was joking, of course. Her house sits on desert soil, and is surrounded by saguaro cactus, not stalks of golden wheat, but in context my jesting query made sense.
You see, we’re being attacked by grasshoppers.
I’m not sure when the grasshoppers began to arrive in such great numbers, but they form rafts across the pool, the living ones stepping gingerly across the weakened corpses of the dead and dying. They also buzz the windows, and cling to the screens, as if they’re peering inside the house and trying to discern whether or not there’s anything edible to be had.
Sadie, the larger of my mother’s two dogs – roughly 35 pounds of Mexican mutt – likes to eat the grasshoppers. She waits for their bodies to dry in the sun, then brings them inside, and crunches on them at her leisure. Sometimes she holds them in her mouth, biding her time until they’ve reached whatever special state means ‘just right’ to her. Sometimes they’re still alive, and the little legs sticking out past her muzzle are kicking and twitching in their insectoid death throes.
I’m sure there are worse fates than being eaten by a small dog.
I cannot think what those worse fates might be.
In the fourth of her “Little House…” books, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder described the arrival of grasshoppers (locusts, really) like this:
“A cloud was over the sun. It was not like any cloud they had ever seen before. It was a cloud of something like snowflakes, but they were larger than snowflakes, and thin and glittering. Light shone through each flickering particle….”
“Plunk! Something hit Laura’s head and fell to the ground. She looked down and saw the largest grasshopper she had ever seen. Then huge brown grasshoppers were hitting the ground all around her, hitting her head and her face and her arms. They came thudding down like hail.”
“The cloud was hailing grasshoppers. The cloud was grasshoppers.”
The grasshoppers here sound like popcorn as they plummet onto the marble patio or plink into the screens or splash into the pool. If enough of them worked together, I’m fairly certain they could open the sliding doors and hop or fly right into the house.
It’s a good thing we have Sadie to crunch them to bits for us.
I hope the wheat survives.