Nature Notes: Flying weather

MARSHA SPARKS photo

As the winter gales howl outside, a deep, steady thundering from the towering surf can be heard for a mile, and it's subliminal pounding can easily be felt under our feet. The rain rakes the windows incessantly, first in cascading wet sheets, and then hissing and snapping on the glass as small hail joins the fray.

The occasional bright flash of light and distant rolling thunder out over the ink black sky and ocean speak of lightning being driven ahead of yet another hailstorm coming ashore.

The wind is blowing at first hard and then harder still. Your hair makes sharp swishing sounds in the wind, and your ears are ruffed by the blasts of wind mixed with fast, almost horizontal rain.

The sky is barely discernible, and a few dark gray clouds lit by street lights show how fast and hard the sky is driving in from the southwest.

There is a real primal feel in all of this power. The storm wind is the same wind that blew the scent of predator and prey to our noses a few million years ago. And the sounds of dangerous movement in the trees and grasses is masked by the roar and blast of the weather. Standing in the dark storm, we remember almost too well. The blood rises and a chill runs through the spine.

Trees shake and bend and recoil again, gust after gust, clinging to the earth with talon-like roots. When you lean against these huge forest people in a big blow, your shoulder against theirs and feel them sway and roll in the swells of the atmospheric ocean, you can feel real power meeting nature's true strength.

Animals lay low in flying weather, as friends and foe are hard to distinguish when it's dark black out and screaming rain. Best to stay close to the earth and wait and listen and keep watch. Eyes cannot penetrate the depth of the night storm, and even the dangerous predators curl up in protected corners to weather the storm.

The sheer raw power of wind gusts rips limbs from trees as easily as sand is blown from dune to hollow and in the end, only the flexible survive. Like palms in a hurricane or grasses bent flat before the maw of the gale, the flexible prevail and the solid and stoic are broken and washed away. It has been so before, and it will be again.

Powerful oaks and pines with girths of three arm spans can stand solid and defiant only so long before they, too, fall before the irresistible blast of the night gales. But the lonely dune grasses are strong and resilient and unaffected, and in the gaining sunlight of the morning after the storm's blast, these tiny, unassuming plants remain unbeaten, yet quietly humble.

There is much to be seen in these wild coastal storms, and the northern lights may indeed create strange sights. But it's not just how big or how loud or strong the storm is, but rather because of the storm our life is made clearer and stronger. In the close company of ocean gales, we can remember our own strengths, our own lives and our own raging storms are quieted for a while by the power that surrounds us in a gale. Few things heal us as well and as quickly as a dose of oceanic storm. The ocean and her sister the wind are knocking at our collective conscience. Perhaps we should, just for a few moments, listen to this beauty and remember why we must forever wage peace. We must.

Craig Sparks is the director of NAWA, and is a watcher of oceanic storms. Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call NAWA at 665-3595 or e-mail to sparks@pacifier.com.

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