Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Wind came and went from everywhere

By STACEY COLE December 30. 2016 7:09PM
The winter wind and snow create a gray-white world. (Metro Creative Connection)

Editor’s note: The following column, “Winter Wind,” was featured in “Stacey Cole’s New Hampshire: A Lyrical Landscape,” a collection of Nature Talks columns originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

THERE IS NOTHING that makes me want to stay in the house more than when winter is full blown and a storm is swinging the leafless branches.

The winter wind bellowed its belligerence and carried its quarrelsome whine from the topmost ledge of the northern hill into our valley. There was not a tree or bush nor stiff-stemmed shrub that did not bend before the merciless monarch. The wind was not to be stayed for this was its unconquerable day.

The snow that traveled in company with the wind conspired with the snow that had come before. Together they danced an irregular swirling reel to the tune of a moaning lament. The snow swept swiftly across fields. Some slammed against stone walls and filled the crevices, becoming firm, solid chinking.

The weed stems were dipped low and tossed hard against the deepening snow as the wind bullied them and spilled their seeds. The wind came from everywhere and it went everywhere.

The hills beyond the meadows were to be seen only at the whim of the wind, whenever it chose to rest the snow dancers while it improvised a new air. The sky turned darker as the storm furrowed its brow. A gray-white world waited for the angry wind to pass.

Two large lilac bushes sprawl against our back shed wall. During the storm, their leafless limbs composed a somber strain as they scratched against the window panes. Beneath the lilacs, a small flock of juncos and tree sparrows clasped weak stalks and attempted to feed on the seeds. In seeming mockery, the wind tossed the stalks with the clinging birds and scattered the weed seeds with the snow. Now and again a bird would drop to the ground and scratch a pocket in the snow, searching for seeds.

Although it hardly seemed possible for a bird to fly in the face of such an adversary, a flock of a half-dozen chickadees appeared from out of the storm and clung to the lilacs’ whipping branches. They took turns swinging with the red sunflower-seed feeder wired to a branch. They would grasp a seed in their beak and dodge to a nearby limb. Once their footing was secured, they would tuck the seed under one foot while they pried open the shuck with their bill.

The birds apparently had no further appointments that day, for they could be seen during the daylight hours scrambling from branch to feeder and back again. Just before darkness became complete, one by one, they took wing against the fury of the storm in search of shelter for the night.

The storm raged on until during the early morning hours — the wind and the darkness departed together.

Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at jlord@unionleader.com.


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