Wind and Cold

January 7, 2014

Wind blowing through tree branches.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

An arctic cold front has moved into the Mid-Atlantic and brought with it the coldest temperatures in decades for this area, 2 degrees F as I am writing this, accompanied by winds gusting to 35 miles-per-hour.  Last night the house rattled when hit with the blasts of air as the front moved in.

While laying in bed, I found myself remembering being terrified of the wind when I was a child.  There was at least one incident of hiding under the bed during a blow.  In the middle of another, I looked out in horror as the trash cans blew down the street.  That second incident was also my first attempt at cognitive reorientation, although I did not know that at the time.

Cognitive reorientation comes from the work of Albert Ellis and is an outgrowth of his Rational Emotive Therapy.  Basically, Ellis believed that it was a person’s thinking that created problems-change the way you think (cognition) and you change the way you behave.  All those years ago I recall looking out the window and saying to myself “It is only the wind and it will not hurt me.”  Perhaps this was an attempt to change what I was really thinking.  Of course, one can not rule out the possibility of denial, either.  I do not remember from whom this definition comes, but I always use it to describe denial as “a buffer against an unacceptable reality.”  Denial protects us from that which we do not want to, or can not yet, face.  As long as I told myself the wind would not hurt me, I could deny that as a possibility.  As an adult looking back on that experience, I am currently not sure if what I was really afraid of was the wind itself or getting into trouble as it my job to bring in the trash cans.  Yes, distortion is certainly a problem with memories.  (It was probably a bit of both.)

Pine Ridge Reservation trailer.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Having said all of that, the Mid-Atlantic is pretty fortunate when compared to the Mid-West.  Yesterday morning in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, it was -16 F with stronger winds.  The Oglala Lakota live on the Pine Ridge Reservation there-many in the trailers provided in the 1970s.

Installing aluminum skirting on Pine Ridge trailer.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Two years ago we took a group to Pine Ridge for an Alternative Spring Break and one of the activities we did was to install “skirts” on the underside of the trailers.  These are aluminum sheets that are screwed into wood frames and subsequently screwed into the underside of the trailer.  The reason for doing this is two-fold:  one, they keep snow from building up underneath and chilling the trailer more than it already is (Pine Ridge had a four-foot snowfall this past October); and two, they keep the wind from blowing underneath and flipping the trailer (much like those trash cans blowing in the street).  While this appears to help, the skirts do nothing for the broken windows.

The beyond absolute poverty under which the Lakota live is deplorable and a direct result of well over 100 years of federal policy decisions; these kind of weather conditions make this chronic problem strikingly more acute.

No amount of cognitive reorientation will change that.  Denial, however, will make it less noticeable.

Take care.

UPDATE:  I had forgotten about this article in National Geographic-it is an important read.  If the link does not work, the article is entitled “In the Shadow of Wounded Knee”.