Turn, turn, turn.

By Anna Mitcheal

The first time I saw a wind farm in Texas I wasn’t actually living in Texas.

I was driving through with a friend who had never been here before. I had family in East Texas, and I went to college in Austin. I even lived in Houston for a few years while I was growing up, so I thought I knew Texas pretty well. I was holding my own as a tour guide until we reached West Texas.

“Whoa,” my friend said and actually slowed the car down. “What is that?”

I was messing with something — the radio or a map probably. This was before we had phones to do everything except hold the steering wheel.

“What’s what?” I asked, because nowhere in the rules of being a tour guide does it say one must be eloquent.

She pointed to the stretch of land that, last time I had looked, was wide open and flat. Now, rather suddenly, there was a towering steel structure breaking the horizon. Behind it was another structure that matched the first. Then another. And another. All with massive propeller blades turning at different speeds. The motions were slow and tranquil, like if you were watching synchronized swimmers who have the same moves but are executing them in their own time. Turn, turn, turn. I had read about wind farms, so I knew a little about them, but instead of saying that, I just continued my campaign to be the most eloquent tour guide in the county.

“Well … I just … those are …”

Lucky for me, I was probably the only tour guide in the county.

“I wonder how much electricity they make,” my friend said, because apparently she had read about wind farms too. She turned her attention back to driving, but I kept watching, waiting to see if one would speed up or another would slow down so that they could turn together. It was almost like the propellers were dancing with minds of their own, but I knew, anyone watching them would know, that a larger force was driving every move. They were big — some can be almost the size of a football field — and we were small. They were machines, and we were living, breathing people. But I saw a similarity, and I liked what I saw.

A couple weeks ago my family took a drive down that same highway in West Texas. We left Waco so early that we hit the first wind turbines not long after the sun came up. And this is what happened: I didn’t even notice. I was driving. My eyes were on the road, and I was lost in my thoughts, or maybe in what my kids were talking about in the back seat. There’s no telling how many turbines we passed before I finally noticed them, and by then the highway was snaking through long, gridded lines of the cylindrical bodies with propeller arms spinning.

“Wow,” I said. Still eloquent after all these years.

No one in the car asked me to expand, though in all fairness maybe no one heard me. It was just as well. Some days you know it’s not going to work to try and explain what’s turning inside you: the realization of how often we probably miss the beauty that’s right in front of us.

Other days you don’t know if it will work, but you decide it’s important enough that you want to try. On that note, thank you for letting me be your tour guide today.

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