We were sitting quietly in our old farmhouse late the other night, me reading a book and Dee grading some of her students’ papers, when a strong gust of wind snare-drummed our big elm tree’s twigs and blew flutes’ melodies through the pine trees’ boughs.
The wind’s sudden symphony caught our attention enough to make us stop what we were doing and look at each other.
I was the first to break the warm silence that remained in our sanctum.
“Do you know what that was?” I asked.
“The wind,” she answered.
“No, I mean, do you really know what that was?” I pressed.
“Yes. It was a gust of wind blowing through the trees,” she smirked.
A moment passed before I realized that she, the teacher, was challenging me, the student, to share another romanticized description about something so simple as wind gusting through our farmyard’s trees. Seldom in our house do such simplicities go without some sort of expansive interpretation, us believing life and this gorgeous countryside deserving at least that much in return for what we receive from them.
Though having spent much of her life in Florida’s warmer climes, it didn’t take many years of living here for Dee to realize there’s likely great meaning riding bareback on that gust of wind.
It was early March herself spurring that wind into full gallop, whoopin’ and hollerin’ all the way over our ridges and coulees, starting here at Timber Creek, going down to Pigeon Creek, whipping across the Trempealeau and not even letting the Old Man River stop her.
In her wake were scattered assurances that winter’s demise draws nigh. The below-zero ice she carried that night to rub cheeks rosy will, within a few days, thaw into rivulets wending down the ridges to feed pastures wild and tamed.
The March wind’s ride stirs our Northern Driftless Area’s ridges and coulees in ways that leave all unsettled for weeks – nature herself calling out trees’ buds while accidentally dumping a few inches of snow to remind us of confusion that wind wreaks.
Children of all ages will be tempted to fly their kites on March’s wind, though its fury threatens to tear any kite from control and carry it the miles from Galesville to Pigeon Falls.
In the March wind, city street workers hear it tell them to keep street sweepers and snow plows handy at the same time.
It thumps spring’s Morse code on the metal of farm’s machine sheds, telling farmers to get harrows and drills ready, though the ice-box cold shed interiors belie the March sun’s warm massage on the exteriors.
Because of that wind, there will be days when thermometers say it’s freezing at the same time the sun warms us and melts the driveway’s ice and snow.
Sap will tap slow daytime rhythms from spiles in trees still frozen at night.
On the March wind, robins will join to ride with April showers toward its promise of spring’s warmth, only to search for cover in bushes and boughs when snow salts their backs – three times, the old-timers say.
Dee and I took our time considering how that early March night’s gust was so much more than a gust as we might hear in any other month. And then, through her teasing wit-filled smile, Dee said, “I think what we heard is all of those things. But tonight, it’s just the wind blowing in our trees.”
She used her forefinger to push her spectacles farther up the bridge of her nose and, still smiling, returned to grading her students’ papers. I searched for the spot where I’d left off in my book and continued reading.
Though we busied ourselves with other things, we silently listened to the wind, without words acknowledging each gust of that night’s wind so unimportant and so important.
— Scott Schultz