The Hundredth Meridian

The Wind Listeth

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. Speaking from experience, rather than poetic frenzy, I say both. The spring winds blowing white at home in Wyoming blow red down here in New Mexico, a howling gale that seems to be returning to the Dustbowl the errant Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas dusts that have been sojourning in Southern California for 60 years. They might be winds from Hell, though on this Easter weekend tongues of heavenly fire is plainly a more appropriate metaphor.

The storms make their first appearance as skirmishing clouds of pink dust on the western landline, blotting the Florida Mountains and sweeping on across the endless flats toward the Rio Grande. Hot winds lift the dust to an even height beneath a clear blue sky, a dry and scouring fog rolling in from an ocean of red desert upon the springtime valley of green fields and blossoming fruit trees and the East Mesa, where the Organ Mountains vanish behind the blowing dust raised by 60-mile-an-hour winds and the houses around blur to reddish, indistinct shapes. Sheets and ribbons of dust race across the roads, and dust like red talcum powder works its way in under doors and around windows, sifting through the skylight and drafting down the chimney. The parching, hot, and suffocating air inside the closed-up house has a claustrophobic effect which, added to the nervous bombardment of positive ions, produces a feeling of mild panic arising from a sense of...

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