We were in a friend’s kitchen having Sunday lunch when the first storm of winter hit.
There were ten of us around the large white pine table made from salvaged boards many years ago. The planks were worn smooth from years of elbows and forearms and sliding plates. Gravy and wine stains stirred memories of past meals. Five Brits, two Irish, three Americans, none born on this little sliver of land, but all here by choice. Eight of us had a clear view of the fields beyond the house through the large window over the sink.
We lunched on roasted pheasant with bacon; carrots, parsnips, and potatoes in duck fat; steamed leeks and cabbage. Lemon cake came from the group baker. There were gin and tonics, a favorite of the Brits, and plentiful red wine to wash it all down. Conversation flowed, flitting from topic to topic, for three hours: the state of the world, Brexit, and local politics were all covered.
We were passing the cheese board when the woman to my left glanced out the window and said, “Oh my, would you look at that?”
The trees in the hedgerow were bent almost to the ground by the wind. Then the rain started. Hard. Darkness fell.
Storm Atiyah had formed near Iceland a few days before, gathered strength over the North Atlantic, and was now a Code Red storm descending on the Dingle Peninsula with sustained winds of 60 miles per hour and gusts of over one hundred.
There was a flurry of hurried goodbyes as we rushed to gather our coats and get to our own homes while it was still safe.
The first fellow out the door wrestled to open his car door against the wind before his wife ran out. All we could hear over the wind was a cry of “Bloody hell” as he struggled in the darkness.
Sara and I made it home, creeping along familiar roads to the other side of the hill, avoiding fallen branches, and straining to see more than a few feet ahead. At last we were safe in our home, leaning on the door to shut it behind us. I lit the fire in the lounge and we settled in to wait out the storm.
That’s when we heard a thumping upstairs.
I rushed up to find a window in the small bedroom swinging wildly in the wind. I grabbed the handle and pulled it shut. A good hard pull. The handle came off in my hand. “This might not be good,” I thought. The screws in the window hinges were partially pulled from the frame.
“Bring a screwdriver!” I yelled downstairs, trying to hold onto the window. Sara ran up with the toolbox.
I sat on the window sill holding the sash up with my left hand while using the screwdriver in my right hand to reset the hinges. The wind was blowing fiercely. The Storm Force 10 gale pulled the window out, threatening to deposit me in the drive below. Then it blew the window in, threatening to crush my left hand. Then out again. The drive loomed beneath me. Then in. Out and in. Out and in. I turned the screws frantically.
Here is how you occupy your mind while leaning out a window during 100 miles per hour winds: “I could be blown out this window and fall to a horrible death,” I reflected as I turned the screwdriver, “although it would be a legendary death. Maybe someone will write a ballad about it.”
At last, the screws were set and the window was pulled shut. I retired to the lounge and my fire, this time with a strong whiskey in hand, thinking it’s better to be alive than to have a song called The Man Who Blew Out the Window sung in pubs.
Outside, the winds wailed.
Winter is Coming
Winter is coming.
The sun rides lower in the sky.
Cold wind blows across the mountain from the sea,
And trees raise bare white arms to seek the sun.
Winter is coming.
Hard rain pelts the window panes.
Boats are in their cradles, pots are in the yard.
Winter is coming.
Hedgerow flowers fade away.
Our blackened fingers pick the last sweet bramble fruit
And leave the rest for birds and fox to have a feast
On Stephen’s day.
Winter is coming.
Hay is gathered in the barn.
The sheep move to the lower fields and cattle to
The shed. The dogs fluff up a bed of straw and wait
To run again.
Winter is coming,
But we’re well prepared
With spuds and onions from our patch
And carrots from the Maharees.
We’ve Jerrry’s lamb to feed our souls,
And hickory and ash to feed our stove.
Strong walls surround us.
We’ll burrow in and wait for spring.
14 thoughts on “Winter is Coming”
Hi Sara & Jim, if that’s the first storm of winter you have a long winter ahead of you . I am glad you are safe. I think you are a poet at heart. Have a Merry and warm Christmas! Love, Marilyn & Greg 🎄🎄🎄
Thank you, Marilyn. Happy Christmas to you and Greg.
Love your post. So vivid I actually felt as if I were there. And oddly despite it being a bit scary wish I was. Have a Merry Christmas
Pat and Ray
Thank you, Pat sometimes the wail of the wind is scary but we know we’re surrounded by strong walls. We just sit in front of the fire and read our books.
Absolutely lovely. Love, Margie
The Table Makers Will Always Overcome the Wall Builders
Thank you, Margie. Les than three months!
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Thank you, Mary
Beautifully written – I lived through every wind gust and every turn of the screw!! So glad you could sit and enjoy a whisky in front of the fire eventually.
Thank you, Natalie. We will be in Santa Fe late October into November and hope to see you.
Amazing story Jim! You have a gift for writing. I am so glad that you and Sara are safe!❤️
Great way to start the holiday season, adventure, good food and drink and gratitude. Have a great holiday love Susan and cheryl
Never tire of reading your narratives, or, in this case, re-reading. Stay safe my literary friend.
Thank you. I should have a new piece this week—I was sidetracked by my dog’s knee surgery this week.