Wind and Whimsy

It’s an ominous symptom from a blogging-post point of view. I look at a list of potential topics I have been exploring–some of which are supported by a list of a few pertinent links. Some, like “synthetic biology” and “transhuman super-intelligence” have dozens each, massive topics to be sure.

Nah. Too arcane, too complex for the typical blog-reader 30 second hop. So all I seem to be able to do is stare out the window at wind playing with bare branches–all that the season has left for the wind to sign its signature in the cold air.

It agitates the butterfly bush canes, whipping them up against the house just below the window at arm’s length from my keyboard. The bare branches transmogrify briefly to privet switches once self-collected for my own punishment.  A sudden spanking of canes against the siding snaps me back into the now.

Just across the lane, those same invisible eddies gently ricochet off the unyielding walls to sway the lithe limbs of spreading maples, our summer salvation from the heat. But the maples here in the shelter of the valley are not a true gauge of the power of last night’s howling.

If I lean a bit right for the longer view I can watch the turbulent treetops of the far ridge, maybe a quarter mile away and two hundred feet higher than where I sit. This is stage where the winds we heard all night are making most of their music.

Silhouetted against  peach-and-sapphire sunrise, mature oaks and poplars do battle, push and shove, back and forth, force against force; wind against wood, both sides powerful and worthy of awe in a daydream over coffee.

The muscle of wood is borne in bones of lignin, root to trunk. When wind-swayed off-balance each bole rebounds with a resilient force equal to the power of the wind. The wind, borne of sun, sent swirling by a spinning planet, by the sagging weight of a continental bubble of air, slips east and south, a map of imaginary blue arrows not visible in the sky overhead to mark its arrival over Goose Creek.

The bark skin of each red oak above Nameless Creek is where biology confronts meteorology, gust upon gust, until the wind blows itself out or moves along east, the tree stronger for each of these howling night dramas of push coming to shove in the cold dark.

Wind Map

Intellicast –

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Wow. Choosing poetry over technical information today. This is the best writing you have blessed your readers with in a long time. Thank you for the beautiful prose this morning.

  2. Reverie. A state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream. “A knock on the door broke her reverie”. Synonyms: daydream, daydreaming, trance, musing.

    Your attention slipping from “transhuman super-intelligence” to “wind and whimsy” over morning coffee was reminiscent to me of the iconic, as Wikipedia refers to it, plastic bag scene in the movie American Beauty. In an interview, screenwriter Alan Ball said, “There’s a Buddhist notion of the miraculous within the mundane, and I think we certainly live in a culture that encourages us not to look for that”. Wind map beautiful, by the way.


    You want to see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed?


    On VIDEO: We’re in an empty parking lot on a cold, gray day. Something is floating across from us… it’s an empty, wrinkled, white PLASTIC BAG. We follow it as the wind carries it in a circle around us, sometimes whipping it about violently, or, without warning, sending it soaring skyward, then letting it float gracefully down to the ground…

    Jane and Ricky sit on the bed, watching his WIDE-SCREEN TV.


    It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing. And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just… dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever.

    A beat.


    Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember…

    Now Jane is watching him.



    Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it… and my heart is going to cave in.