Wind

Published on Sunday 29th March 2015 by Julie Embleton

Of all the elements, I think wind got the best deal. Its changeable mood is very feminine; a whisper too gentle to stir the grass, or crazed enough to rip across the land like the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The source of its direction is the subject of numerous weather predictions and its invisibility lends itself to super-hero status.

Most of the time, the wind drives me nuts. The east corner of my house faces the Irish Sea and there’s a clean sweep of wide open land between my back door and the water, and the wind, in my opinion, takes immense satisfaction in rolling straight up that stretch and blasting itself against my walls. The house is over 200 years old and despite my best efforts it always slips in to whistle like a caged banshee through the minute gaps I’ve missed. It tugs at my washing like a starved goat, and even when I wedge items down with four or five pegs I inevitably go out to find them lying forlornly on the grass as the wind dances around me, mocking my attempts to win before whipping away to find trouble elsewhere. It is drying my clothes for free though, so I shouldn’t complain.

The wind gets to taste and smell. How often have we turned our faces into its touch to realise that our neighbours are barbequing, or mowing their lawn, or really need to get their septic tank emptied? When I walk by the sea, it rolls past carrying the scents of churning waves, acrid wafts of rotting seaweed and the mouth-watering temptation of freshly-cooked chips. Sometimes it even sends a scent my way that stirs a long-forgotten memory.

The wind gets to travel. It tumbles over Kilimanjaro, slides through the Grand Canyon and sweeps across the Sahara Desert. I know this because every now and then it carries the Sahara’s sands onto our island, sprinkling the fine grains on our cars and paths as it passes through. In an afternoon’s freedom, the wind can stir the mane of a resting lion, lighten the feathers of migrating swallows, weave its way through the crumbling corridors of the Coliseum and play in fields of dandelions. It can also destroy a perfectly styled head of hair, lift skirts at inopportune moments, whip hair into sticky, lip-glossed lips and render you blind if it manages to spit a piece of grit in your eye.

When it’s feeling generous we get to share in its adventures by way of souvenirs; leaves and petals, feathers and twigs, or whatever part of the earth it feels inclined to lift and deposit at our feet. But when the wind is enraged, we all know to stay out of its path.

I can’t pick a favourite element, but the wind would be the one I find the most entertaining and infuriating. Robert Louis Stevenson captures it perfectly so I’ll leave you with his words.

 

The Wind

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies’ skirts across the grass—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song:

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