The wind comes roaring out of the south, ferocious and hungry, an invisible lion on the hunt.
Palm trees buck and rear like horses. Birds swing on the feeder like kids on a carnival ride. And a great cloud of dust swallows up the mountains, whites out the valley and dims the neon lights along the Strip.
Welcome to spring in the desert.
The calendar claims it’s still winter. But I know the signs of spring when I see them.
If you have never lived in a desert (as I do, just outside Las Vegas) or camped in Death Valley (as I did once, long ago, when I was young and easily led) let me assure you it is not for the faint of heart.
The same can be said, of course, for other places, other climates, including the South where I grew up, and California, where I raised my children. There are countless places where wind and cold and heat and storms are as much a way of life as the local Walmart.
But spring in the desert is special. Or so it is to me.
For one thing, it starts early, often weeks ahead of schedule. One day, it’s winter. Cold and dreary, the kind of day that makes you bundle up in sweatsuits and crave potatoes and chocolate for supper.
Well, it does that to me.
Then next day, you wake up and walk outside as I did just yesterday and everything seems somehow different. The air is clear and 10 degrees warmer. The birds are bickering at the feeder. And lo and behold, the cyclamen you planted last fall in the pot by the front porch, only to watch it die a slow death in the winter, has miraculous risen from the dead.
I wish you could see it.
I grinned at that one red cyclamen bud and said to myself, “Spring is here!”
It occurred to me that if I had planted spring bulbs last fall _ narcissus and jonquils and tulips _ they might be in bloom, as well. Then I recalled the year that I planted them and they all got eaten by rabbits.
Fine. I like cyclamen.
Then today, the wind began to howl 40-50 mph with gusts up to 60 or more.
If I had a goat, I would have gone out and tied it down.
My husband’s swimsuit was drying on a rack by the hot tub. He grabbed it just in time before it ended up flying like a flag on the top of the Stratosphere.
When he waved goodbye to go work out at the gym, he said, “If I don’t make it back for dinner, you’ll know I got airlifted to Oz.”
Spring is showing up in other ways, in other places. My sweet cousin Sara, in North Carolina, posted a photo on Facebook of a tulip tree in full bloom, a tree that she helped our grandfather plant more than 20 years ago.
It reminded me of what Granddad once told me about spring: “March comes in like a lion,” he explained, “because the Lord sends the wind to blow away the dead remains and make room for new growth.” Then he added with a grin, “But it always goes out like a lamb.”
I think of his words every spring when the winds begin to blow. I claim them as a promise of new growth, new life to come.
Granddad was a baker, a salesman and an occasional Baptist preacher. He loved planting and parables and making people laugh.
I wonder. Could his thoughts on spring also apply to change?
The winds of change are often unsettling. They uproot our lives, muddle our view, make us long to hunker down and hide.
But what if they are sent to carry away the dead remains of the past _ old hurts, mistakes and finished chapters of our lives _ to make room for new growth and new beginnings?
What if change in our lives, like a change in the weather, is just a promise of a new season?
Somedays I like to think about such things. Especially when it’s windy.
Wind makes me hopeful.
Maybe next fall I’ll plant bulbs.