Blowing through Texas
No one prefers the middle seat on the airplane. Most adults will tell you their preferred seats are the aisle options. When traveling with kids, grownups put the little ones in the middle seat between two adults, but if given their choice, most kids want the window seat. Most kids and I. Looking out the airplane window resembles life-sized Google Earth, and I pride myself on my ability to insert my own mental markers for waterways and highways, dams and deserts, and large landmarks, dozens upon which I have gazed from ground level.
On the dusty fields of Texas, windmills silently perch above the valleys getting the privilege of facing and enjoying an expansive view of the sunset. While driving US Highway 62, the slender white pillars appear small, peaking high above the eastern horizon. These massive industrial turbines thrive on the powerful, hot winds off the Guadalupe Mountains and give back their energy to the communities over which they stand watch. As stately and statuesque as the sentinels appear in the distance, my point of view from seat 12F altered my perspective on their height. They remind me of strategically positioned pinwheels across the brown landscape, playing in the breeze and tickling the sky while the pumping Texas oil wells drill and scratch against the earth’s belly.
Charging Against Windmills
Wind drives across the continent, howls over its western mountain tops and up the open Plains through Tornado Alley. Yet in the peaceful, gentle autumn of Connecticut pre-fab signs banged into yard after neighborhood after subdivision rallied against wind power and its toxic influence on its environment. As I passed these twelve-by-fifteen individual protests, less than three months after the Deep Water Horizon spill thrust its watery environment into a streaming webcam of streaming oil, I imagined those guards along the Lone Star rims sagging in sadness at the objections planted against them.
Just a month prior I sneaked around a curving corner of the smooth Appalachians and surprised myself when peeking out from the top of the hillside, visible out the rental moon roof, stood a white industrial turbine. Unlike their ten-gallon cousins, the West Virginia windmills, while equal in height, dotted the occasional dulled mountain peaks, rather than an energy-generating army lined up militarily along a ridge.
Lulled in by their individualism, I pulled up next to one, gazed up through the automotive skylight and watched its gentle, slow rotation. Turning off the engine, I stepped out of the car, stretching my legs in protest against the drive from Pennsylvania (and the jaunt across northwest Maryland). The full height of my arms reaching above my head still minimalized me against the coal-free energy giant. With each rotation, the immense blades pushed the air with a soft, deep woosh, woosh, woosh that breathed life into the simple structure, and into the world around it. And more than a year later from thirty-thousand feet as I gaze at the line of playful pinwheels, I imagine their gentle inhaling and exhaling across the dry, drifting Texas landscape.