With a passing cold front, the north wind howls across the waters of the lake across from our home. On those frigid days, I venture onto the dock to feel the wind on my face, look at the white-capped waves, and reminisce on other windy days.
I was sixteen working for my father on a three-story project where we were installing large, asbestos panels. Mounted on the roof was a swing arm hoist and pulley, and my job was to pull the panels, one at a time, up to the roof’s edge. I was pulling the line attached to a panel when with a sudden gust of wind the panel soared, lifting me like the tail of a kite.
Not knowing where I and the panel might land, I didn’t dare let go, and not knowing how far up I would fly, I didn’t dare hang on. I did the only thing I could, I screamed for help. Eventually, after what seemed like hours dangling in the wind, a fellow worker pulled me to the ground.
Years later, my friend John Dozier and I decided to spend a winter day and night at the fishing club my dad belonged to. A cold front had passed and an arctic gale was roaring across the Gulf of Mexico. Too cold and windy to fish from a boat, we spent the afternoon casting our lines in the canal next to a nuclear energy plant. Late in the afternoon, we returned to the club, and after dinner, we played poker with an older member and his son. The cold wind whistled through the windows as if there was no glass in the panes. Sitting at the poker table away from the fire you would be chilled to the bone, however when close, the heat would leave you soaked with perspiration. To equalize the temperature, every other hand, like chickens on a rotisserie, we would move clockwise one seat. After making frequent trips for firewood and winning all the money, John and I called it quits and went to bed.
The next morning we ventured into the club’s kitchen anticipating hot coffee and homemade biscuits swimming in cane syrup. Instead, we found an angry caretaker who refused to prepare breakfast until we replaced the firewood we had burned.
Vacationing at St. Augustine Beach, Terri and I decided to run on the beach, and with a breeze out of the North, we headed South. The longer we ran the more we wanted to run. Like the Greek god Mercury, we had wings on our feet—our legs felt like steel springs and breathing was easy. Foregoing turning at our usual spot, we decided to run another mile and then another.
When we changed course, we found the wind, now in our face, had increased to near gale force. In place of wings there were lead weights on our feet; instead of steel springs our legs were rubber bands and we grasped for breath. The hour run to the south, turned into a half-day trek north.
You cannot control the wind, sometimes at your back and other times in your face, it’s going to blow. An unexpected gust can knock you off balance; it can bring bone chilling cold; from behind it propels you forward; when gusting in your face, it pushes you backwards.
In life, there will be turns of events beyond control. True leaders accept such and equip themselves to deal with unanticipated circumstances.
“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” -African Proverb