Local Writer Paul Lindholdt Spotlight For Today’s Post

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Revelations are passing rare these days, but I for one am bent on seeing some.

One night last winter, heavy snow began falling at dusk, and no one in our household had the spunk to get up and shovel it. All our best intentions went to bed, and the snow fell in heaps – on the steps, driveway, yard and street.

I set an alarm to rise before dawn and get after the job of grunting down the driveway with a shovel.

In the middle of the night a wind kicked up. It woke me first. Wind ravaged the pines and tossed around odd objects on porches and decks. It woke my wife beside me. From the bed we listened, auditors to the unseen storm outdoors.

The wind toppled the garbage can and recycle bins. It scattered cardboard and tin cans. Newspapers flapped across the yard like bats. It sounded as if a full-tilt blizzard had blown in.

Several weeks before, a neighbor’s tree had crashed through the roof of his house, an ordeal that made us fret about ourselves, surrounded by big pines.

The next morning we looked out to find that new snow gone. Maybe the wind had been powerful enough to drift the flakes against a fence, down the hill, across the street. But no, when I went to gather trash and puzzle past the mystery, the snow had vanished.

A warm wind was blowing. Winter felt like spring. A Chinook had sublimed the snow – turned it to gas without liquefying it. Warmth had gasified the snow into the sky.

No sooner had our late evening snow fallen than it was gone. So, too, moments of sublime insight have to be captured fast when we witness them.

A prudent deity, many believe, would never give “airy nothing a local habitation and a name” before subsuming it back to the sky. To make this planet too appealing would be wrong, the true believers say. Earth ought to be appreciated as a replica of heaven, a kiss and a promise to be consummated in the afterlife, not as a spot for pleasure making in the here-and-now.

That subliming storm, that snowfall in reverse, haunts my delicate memory. We don’t enjoy such revelations every day. That blast from the South transmogrified the snow and spared me the trouble of shoving and shoveling.

That warm wind whisked away the snow more swiftly than my neighbor’s two-stroke thrower would have done. It tutored me in the venerable powers of nature to bring about great changes in the land.

If volunteers were needed, I would man the watch for another such miraculous event. I would sign on as a witness. Lying in the darkness, though – privileged to hear it only with my earthly ear – I missed the fullness of that marvel.

I visually ignored the storm that stole the snow and spirited it away. How I wish I’d been more intuitive, crept from bed, switched on yard lights and faced the thawing gale.

In the ancient arts, to be held up as sublime was to be inspired – in the sense of God’s respiration, God’s breath, that washes across the worthy recipient.

To sublime in the sciences has a parallel: to convert a solid to a gas without a liquid phase between. Maybe warm winds translated those ancient saints, lifted them straight into heaven.

What a high-tech event I beheld that night with my ears, even if I managed to miss it with my human eye. In bed, I wondered what manner of wind was gathering its strength to blow, what meteorological marvel was striking me silent and still.

Clueless indoors, I listened as the slender revelation occurred. Dozing in the dark, I planned my assault on the snow with low-tech shovels shaped like plows. I lay within earshot of water that fell from the sky as a solid and returned to the clouds as gas.

Paul Lindholdt is a professor of English at Eastern Washington University. This essay is adapted from his new book


Monte Tareski

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