Last week, I was driving in the rain from Oregon into Washington State along a road that I’ll call the “Terror Mountain Pass.”
Trailing in the wake of water-spitting eighteen-wheelers, I could barely see through my windshield, and had little expectation of surviving my trip, let alone being transported into raptures of joy
Once or twice as I drove, I snuck an admiring glance at the Columbia River, or I risked a glimpse at cascading waterfalls, but for the most part, my appreciation of the landscape was limited to two thoughts: One. There sure are a lot of electric lines, telephone poles, hydroelectric dams, and traffic along this winding road. Two. I wish I had been paddling a canoe down the river about a hundred years ago, instead of driving alongside it now.
Which doesn’t mean that I begrudge civilization.
Certainly, my client could never have sent me from New York to Portland, and from Portland to Yakima, Washington on the back of a mule. I value airplanes, cell phones, and four-wheel drive vehicles capable of driving through everything short of an apocalypse. And as to Global Positioning Systems, I would sooner give up my mid-morning cup of coffee (for which I live) than surrender my dashboard GPS.
I couldn’t complain about the scenery, either. Fierce mountains and sun-glazed rivers evoked happy memories of John Ford Westerns. The view was panoramic, and I enjoyed a pleasant sense of Hollywood familiarity.
What surprised me, however, was an inescapable feeling of … ho hum.
Gorgeous scenery. So what? Shimmering river. So what? Craggy mountains. So what? Curving highway precipices. So what?
That feeling of detached neutrality accompanied me all the way to Yakima, and continued hours later, on my trip back. Even though it had stopped raining, I was afraid to drive through the “Terror Mountain Pass” at night, and determined to get back to Portland before dark.
I was about 70 miles south of Yakima and pretty much taking for granted the unrelenting sameness of the scenery when I rounded a curve.
Suddenly, there was no more sameness.
My jaw-dropped and my heart flew to my mouth. Off to my left were windmills. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. Like gigantic white pinwheels, crowned with stylized blades that revolved with lackadaisical grace in an imperceptible wind. The windmills crested undulating hills; they staggered up gentle slopes; they peered majestically down into gorges.
They dominated the sky.
My initial response, neither positive nor negative, bordered on biblical. From whence had come these mythological … things? Were they an illusion? A fantasy? A dream? Had a spaceship landed in the middle of the night and deposited them when everyone was sound asleep?
The road curved and they disappeared behind a cliff. The road curved again; they dotted the countryside, silhouetted against the sunset. Tall. Proud. Glorious.
I felt the way the Ancient Greeks must have felt when they first laid eyes on the Parthenon. Honored. Privileged. Awed. I was a witness to magnificence, and magnificence had encompassed me in its afterglow.
Exactly what had I witnessed, though?
When I returned to my little itty-bitty house and my little itty-bitty life, I powered up my computer to find out.
The explanation did not disappoint.
I had been looking at a wind farm. One of the largest in the world. It overlooks 26 miles of the Columbia River, ranges over 90 square miles, and is home to hundreds of the monumental wind turbines, which had kept me company during the last third of my return trip.
The Windy Point Wind Farm is gargantuan. It is new. It is controversial. It was constructed to produce renewable energy, which means that, as with all energy sources, some people hate it, and some people don’t. Fortunately, for those who appreciate their stark grandeur, photographs of them have been taken. I invite you to look at the ones I discovered on a website belonging to the Canon Power Group: www.cannonpowergroup.com/wind/wind-gallery/
Some day, thousands of years from now, after our dearly beloved planet has been abandoned and forgotten, explorers from a faraway solar system will re-inhabit our world. As evening approaches, one of them will come upon what used to be called the Columbia River. On the horizon overlooking the river, he will see giant wind turbines glowing softly against the receding light of the sun.
Astonished, delighted, and mystified, he will shake his head in disbelief. And he will assume, perhaps rightly, that a Race of Gods had once inhabited the earth.
Shelly Reuben has been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. She is an author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.
Copyright © 2012, Shelly Reuben