Monday, May 9, 2011

Dust Devil

When most people think of sand, they think of warm, white beaches, burning their feet as they race into cool, frothy ocean waves.

I think of desert sand.

I was raised in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, a place of tumbleweeds and Roy Rogers, of quail and Joshua Trees, of cacti and cowboys. Of wind and sand.

The wind and sand are inextricably linked in the desert. The wind blows mild or fierce 360 days a year. The wind makes it all the more freezing in the winter, burning your ears as you walk to school. It makes it hotter in the summer, blowing the 110 degree air into your lungs. It spooks the horses and rattles the windows. Most of all, it blows the endless supply of desert sand.

Blows the sand into your homes, leaving a permanent dusty film on every surface. Sand climbs under your nails and no matter how much you wash, you’ll always find a dark line, a reverse French manicure. Sand embeds in the creases of your skin and rides on your eyelashes.

I was a tiny little thing. The kind of tiny that made friends tease and older cousins toss me around. “Light as a feather.” The kind of skinny that made nosey adults cluck at my apparent malnutrition.

I was simply walking to class. It couldn’t have been that far from the chain link fence to the second grade classroom, but in the wind, the hot Santa Anas, it felt like miles (Though I’d yet to reach that grade where you learn just how long a mile actually is. But a mile seemed like an awfully long way.).

I struggled to walk upright, my tiny body practically a plastic bag blowing in the wind. I stuck my head out first, my eyes on the ground, my body at a diagonal, being forced back a step for every two I trudged out.

And then I saw it. They say that tornadoes only exist in the Midwest, but the desert has its own twisters: dust devils. Truer devils than any devil I learned about in Sunday School.

Everyone, boys and girls and teachers alike, screamed and scattered hoping to avoid the sandy demon, but some of us weren’t so lucky. It hit me with its full fury, blasting sand into every part of me, every bit of exposed flesh assaulted with the cruel, sandy sting.

My hands instinctively covered my face lest the sand set up permanent residence in my eyes. My bare legs and arms stung with the kind of torture reserved for prisoners of war. My hair flew about me, possessed by the wind. My clothes whipped my skin mercilessly.

And just like that, it was gone. Dissipated. Blown away to torture another little girl.

Gone, but the sting would last for hours. I would be shaking sand out of my hair and clothes, digging sand out of my ears and from under my nails, picking sand out of the corners of my eyes, for hours and days.

I’ve never liked the sand or its best friend the wind.

This was a post for the RemembeRED prompt: So this week, we want you to write about sand. Yes...sand. It doesn't have to be summer-related, but the impending summer and my proximity to Lake Michigan and it's glorious beaches are what inspired me to tell you to write about sand. So. SAND. GO.

12 comments mean you love me:

Lynnette said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Scratching your head after just washing your hair and still finding sand under your finger nails. It was always hardest to get it out of my hair, no matter how much I scrubbed when washing my hair or how long I rinsed, the sand seems to never really go down the drain.

Logical Libby said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I too am a desert kid. Not severe desert like you, but high desert. Sand to me is just something I don't wan in my shoes.

The Woven Moments said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

reverse french manicure. GREAT visual. You are economic with your words. It makes reading your pieces a pleasure. Truly.

alonewithcats said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

At one point I would have killed to be thin enough for someone to speculate on my possible malnutrition. Oh, body issues.

Ms. Salti said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

That was beautifully written. I'm actually terrified of the wind, so I would have been scarred for life!

Jackie said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Never being near the desert, your story made was picturesque. I could really imagine it and the pain of that wind storm.

Mandyland said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You leave me with such amazing visuals! The reversed manicure, the plastic bag...perfect descriptions!

I was hoping someone would swoop into that dust devil and save you.

I was also hoping it didn't pick you up and toss you about.

Elaine A. said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I would be so mad if sand were always on everything. It is a nuisance in that sense. Your descriptions are perfect. Sorry you got caught in that "devil"!!

Bitter Betty said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

No joke, yesterday it was so windy out here. At one point after reading your post, there was a huge dust devil that blew through the neighborhood. Made me think of you, and made me want to move out of this God-forsaken desert!

le Chef said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I grew up in the desert as well, only a southern Utah desert. I've had that manicure.
I loved the sand though. It probably helps that we didn't get those dust devils, at least not on that scale.
UGH!

From Tracie said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I spent many summers in Arizona (because the desert is such a great place to visit in August!) and remember well the feeling of getting caught up in a sand-storm.

I don't think that I ever got stuck in one that bad though.

I hate that no adult was standing near enough to pick you up and get you out of the path of the devil.

The Reason You Come said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I like how you recounted that childhood memory. I also like the word "dust devil" but would probably be afraid of dust devil itself.

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