Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, rain dominated the weather forecast nearly every week of 2018. But there’s a bigger reason why I didn’t walk through the woods as often as I’d like: the wind. If it wasn’t raining, it was probably windy, just like it is today.
John Muir famously exulted the wind when he wrote about his climb — because the highest ridge wasn’t high enough — to the top of a one hundred foot tall pine tree in order to better see and hear the day’s stormy winds. He swung around up there for hours, enjoying the vision, music, and fragrance. Although Muir may be my most favored character in history, although I share his respect and admiration for nature in all her moods, I do not share his enthusiasm for bathing in its wild violence.
When the wind blows, I prefer to step out of its way. I do not need to stand between the highs and lows as nature equalizes her system’s pressure. Further, I am not someone who likes to spin around town with the top down or race across water in an open speedboat. Even skiing has lost its attraction, since I find no pleasure in feeling the icy rush permeate the flesh on my face as fall from mountaintop to bottom. You can be sure the experience of jumping from an airplane is a story I will never be able to tell, and the reason has as much to do with wind as danger.
Of course, I also refrain from walking to avoid danger. The unhealthy remnants from advanced age, unfortunate disease, and destructive pest hang too frequently above my head out there in the woods. When I walk tomorrow, I expect to find many fallen limbs scattered on the ground, and since the soggy, saturated soils are likely having trouble holding shallow roots firmly in place during these high and frequent gusts, I expect to find whole trees among them.
I have broken my vow to walk in all kinds of weather. I have given in to my natural affinity for calm. I have retreated from the wind to listen to its music and watch its energy from behind a windowpane, rereading Muir’s words while safely in my burrow:
But when the storm is over, and we behold the same forests tranquil again, towering fresh and unscathed in erect majesty, and consider what centuries of storms have fallen upon them since they were first planted,–hail, to break the tender seedlings; lightning, to scorch and shatter; snow, winds, and avalanches, to crush and overwhelm,–while the manifest result of all this wild storm-culture is the glorious perfection we behold; then faith in Nature’s forestry is established, and we cease to deplore the violence of her most destructive gales, or of any other storm-implement whatsoever.