The wind blows in Southern Alberta.
And usually from the west.
Invariably, it’s hot and dry in summer.
But in winter, you get a selection. Either it’s cold and penetrating; or warm and very, very melty (my word).
This second wind, known as a Chinook, comes in from the west without warning, forming a great arch in the overhead cloud cover and raising the temperature forty degrees in an hour.
The people who make Southern Alberta their home have learned to live with the wind.
What else can you do?
The kids adapt at a very early age.
Case in point . . .
I was five and in grade one. That magical time when everything is . . . magical.
It was winter.
A warm Chinook had blown in during morning classes.
And we had been sent outside for recess.
Not an unusual combination of events.
We ran about the playground, moving with the wind, or trying to make headway against it.
Or huddling close to the school when we had had enough.
And that was when it happened.
And it was Kathy who did it.
Now, I will admit that Kathy was a slender little stick of a kid.
Wiry and athletic and just a tad daring.
But still, her action was life-changing.
She stood out in the wind, unzipped her coat, held the sides out and . . . leaned over.
And the wind held her there!
I am not making this up.
It held her there. At an angle.
Like a kite.
The rest of us had to try it.
We had more or less success.
For some of the heavier kids, the wind wasn’t – quite – strong enough.
For the smaller, a little too strong. It could actually lift them off their feet or roll them over backward.
But for those of us somewhere in the middle, it was remarkable.
You almost felt as though you were flying!
After that, no one zipped their coats shut during a Chinook.
Instead, you used said coats – and that wind – to blow yourself wherever you wanted to go.
I could see Kathy’s invention of cloth and wind being used for amazing things.
Like . . . pushing great vehicles.
Oddly enough, when I told my parents, they were less than enthusiastic.
And not at all willing to take me and Kathy’s invention immediately to the patent office.
Moving forward . . .
The decades have gone by.
And still, whenever the wind blows, I think of Kathy.
And her coat.
And that clever mind that made such entertaining use of something that could have been so aggravating.
Sometimes, you can still catch me out in it.
The wind, I mean.
Holding my coat open.
And remembering . . .