How to Survive A Starkblast

The Wind Through
The Keyhole
Pages 164-246

Those of you following this blog (say thankya) know that I recently moved my family to Barbados. What you might not know is that the closest Caribbean island to Barbados is St. Vincent, where a volcano just erupted, covering us with ash. We decided to make the move last summer, when we were quarantined due to COVID, actually confined to our house due to being downwind from wildfires that turned the sky an apocalyptic orange. Well, we finally got here and got to enjoy a few weeks of sunshine and fresh air before the skies changed color again—this time to an apocalyptic gray—and we find ourselves once more trapped indoors.

What does any of this have to do with the Dark Tower? Well, a few weeks ago the ka-tet was almost caught in a starkblast. This week—two stories within stories deep, while Roland and the New Yorkers wait out the first starkblast—brave little Tim Ross survive’s another. The characters have been forced to take shelter and wait for the cold snap to end, just as we are waiting for the ashfall to stop.

As we all experienced last year, being stuck inside is far from ideal, but it does have it’s benefits. For one, we’re safe. Like the ka-tet in the abandoned meeting hall, or Tim hiding under the magic cloth with Sai Tyger, we know that as long as we stay sheltered, the dangers outside can’t come in.

There’s also something pleasant about being forced to take a break from real life. The ka-tet, who spend all day every day walking along the path of the beam, finally have a chance to rest; Tim has been on a journey—quite an arduous one at that—and now he has no choice but to snuggle up next to a soft tyger and get some sleep.

The wind roared across the empty sky, the cold deepened, but Tim Ross lay safe and warm, with a tyger sleeping beside him. At some point he slipped away himself, into a rest that was deep and satisfying…

The Wind Through the Keyhole, p. 245

Perhaps the best perk of being driven inside, whether by starkblast or by volcano, is the excuse to indulge in this blogger’s favorite form of magic: narrative. Like many of us did during lockdowns last year, we have been waiting out the ashfall with movies, television, books, and video games. In Mid-World, the ka-tet fills the hours listening to Roland’s tales. Unfortunately Tim doesn’t have anybody under the cloth with him who could tell him a story, but his subconscious provides one, showing him a vision of the Dark Tower.

But one thing that this week’s chapters really drove home for me, is how important it is to remember that every time we’re driven inside by a storm and are enjoying the advantages of forced relaxation, there are always people who aren’t able to take shelter. People who not only lack the luxury of sleeping and watching movies, but who are struggling just to survive the storm at all.

While the ka-tet is only safe from the starkblast thanks to Bix’s warning and boat ride, it’s hard to imagine the ferry man survived the storm himself. Even if he was able to find shelter, how long could he last one his own, especially after sharing most of his food with the gunslingers?

Mirroring Bix, the mudmen of the Fagonard Swamp save Tim’s life by giving Tim a ride on their boat. They are also unlikely to survive the imminent starkblast; in fact, they all expect to be killed by it. Their whole tribe is going to be wiped out, Tim realizes with dismay.

This led his musings back to the Fagonard tribe. They weren’t a bit safe . . . The storm was coming—the starkblast. They knew it, probably from the bumblers, and they expected it to kill them.

The Wind Through the Keyhole, p. 226-227

For us in Barbados, the ashfall is a real hazard, but staying safe is as easy as keeping your doors and windows closed. 118 miles away in St. Vincent, things aren’t quite that simple. What they’re experiencing is exponentially more dire, with thousands of people being evacuated from their homes.

This week’s reading also teaches us that it’s not enough for us to just remember those caught in the storm—natural disasters like this aren’t a “thoughts & prayers” situation—we have to actually do what we can to help them. Just as Bix ferried the ka-tet across the river, just as the mudmen rowed Tim back to shore, more than a dozen cruise ships are currently lined up to help evacuate the people of St. Vincent and bring them to safety on neighboring islands.

Sometimes we can’t do anything for those in need, as there was nothing Tim could do to help the mudmen. But we have to help who we can when we can, even if it means sharing our food or giving someone a ride. At the end of this week’s chapters Tim could have chosen to shoot Sai Tyger and take the key from around his dead neck, but instead he recognizes how vulnerable the beast is and decides to help him survive the storm. The choice to save the tyger ends up saving his own skin as well, for it’s only with the help of Sai Tyger (who will soon reveal himself to be Maerlyn) that the boy finds the magic cloth.

Tim put the four-shot back into his belt with one hand; with the other he slid the ornate silver key into the lock on the cage’s curved door. “Sai Tyger, I offer a bargain. Let me use the key around your neck to open yon shelter and we’ll both live.

The Wind Through the Keyhole, p. 239

Everything is dangerous the mudmen mime to Tim when they gift him Daria (p. 211), and eventually something—whether it be a starkblast or a volcano, a pooky or COVID—will take us to the clearing at the end of the path. But until then, while we’re still on our path, it’s our duty to help others along theirs.

To that end, here’s a link for anyone who wishes to donate to relief for the people of St. Vincent. Give what you can, if you can.

Next Week’s Reading
The Wind Through The Keyhole:
Pages 247-End of Book
& The Wolves Of The Calla:

Published by Joe Rechtman

Screenwriter/watcher. Constant Reader & Dark Tower Junkie.

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