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Said and Done

Said & Done: Who has ever seen the wind?

Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you.

But when the leaves hang trembling

The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I.

But when the trees bow down their heads

The wind is passing by.

— Rossetti

Little boys in our town discovered the wind in a pine grove not far from our homes. We were 7 or 8 at the time, just old enough to feel safe about putting half a mile or so between us and our mothers’ apron strings.

It may have been our first sense of freedom that heightened our response to spring wind in the trees. I think I’d never heard the wind before I heard it making music in the tops of those pines. Their branches grew just right for small boys, just far enough apart to make safe foot and hand holds all the way to the top. To this day I associate pine pitch with my first sweet awareness of windsong in the trees.

We climbed up to where crows perched when we weren’t around, and sat charmed in the currents of air that rushed through needles and branches. Occasionally, we climbed when the wind had got the bit between its teeth, hustling up a gale. We were not afraid, clinging to flexible treetops as they whipped in the blast.

When our playtime was done, we hugged the great trees, wrapping our arms around their trunks and laying cheeks against the rough bark, reluctant to quit and go home. By the gobs of pitch smeared on our clothing, mothers knew what we’d been up to. Wisely, they never made forbidden fruit of that experience.

Of all meteorological phenomena wind is the least understood. Sun and rain are palpable and evident. One soon senses changes in temperature. Wind, however, is subtle and temperamental, its origins uncertain and changing. Wind has a dozen and more names and, depending on how it blows, it has myriad effect upon the earth and earths’ peoples.

In an early German reader “Altes Und Neues” there’s a folktale about a vineyard keeper who complains perpetually that weather conditions prevent him from producing a top-grade harvest.

His dissatisfaction eventually moves the gods to let him plan every aspect of the weather as he’d like it for one growing season.

Sun shines and rain falls and the months pass. When the time comes to pick grapes, they hang plump and ready. The vineyard keeper plucks the first grape, pops it into his mouth — and promptly spits it out. Sour! The genius of the vineyard had forgotten to include the wind among weather necessities required to grow a perfect grape.

This is a windy month. Lions roar and lambs bleat — or lambs bleat and lions roar — all depending on which end of the calendar is tipped into the wind.

That we generally get a blast out of March stems from the fact that, sooner or later, winter and spring engage in a death duel that inevitably sees winter on its back and spring garlanded as victor.

This annual battle may rage early in March, in which case roaring lions take center stage. Or easy winds and balmy days at first appease the winter-weary, in which case the gentle lamb is celebrated. It doesn’t matter the order of procession, winter never gives in without a struggle. Spring, however mild in the long run, must flex muscles and stand tough in the face of winter’s last ditch thrashing.

There was a tremendous wind in New England at this time many years ago. It may have been brought about by the furies generated in our town meetings. Maybe some frugal Yankee collected all the cumulative energy from the town meeting floor, packaged it between sessions — and saw it all blow on that fatal day in 1934.

Whatever the cause, the history of it is that in that year a gale force of 231 mph ripped the summit off Mount Washington. It was the single mightiest wind ever recorded.

Winds like that famous Mount Washington wind still rampage from time to time. The Beaufort Scale, a mariner’s rule for measuring wind effect on ships at sea, runs up on a graduated scale from dead calm to wild hurricane winds. At 75 mph ships are thought to be at the mercy of the elements. Such winds are not uncommon during typhoons.

In 1944 a storm of immeasurable violence sank the Hull, the Spence and the Monnaghan in the Philippine Sea. These “tin cans” breathed salt spray whipped off wave tops in the face of gales exceeding 100 mph. Their engine died for want of oxygen. The ships broached and capsized. It was one of war’s worst disasters in which heroism got no chance to win medals.

Today our first red-winged blackbird landed in the tree growing just outside our Charlene Manor cafeteria. Robins have been arguing over nest building rights for a month. Our world says ready.

It’s an ill wind that blows no one some good!

Paul Seamans is a permanent resident of the Charlene Manor nursing home. A picture window on his room’s west side gives a full view of Shelburne Mountain, a continuing inspiration for “Said & Done.” Some of his columns will have been previously published.

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