The Edge of Winter

Article and photo by Joe Mish

mish - grass prints in snow

The hand of the wind uses the delicate grass to etch its thoughts in the snow. Nature’s secrets are whispered among the wooded hills and fields for all who pause to ‘listen’.

March is the month when winter puts its house in order to depart our latitude on its tour of the earth.

Remnants of left over winter wind, swept from dark, frozen nooks and crannies, are set free to blow themselves out in the twenty days leading to the arrival of spring.

The force of the wind breathes life into tree canopies and grasses as they dance and sway to the tune of the invisible but palpable energy. There is joy expressed when those, planted in place, unable to change location, experience rhythmic movement in perfect time.

A linear mass of silver maple trees, along the river’s edge, branches tipped with red velvet buds, sway in unison, as they execute a perfect ‘wave’, encouraged on by a burst of wind which leads the cheer.

Consider that the trees and tall meadow grass have evolved to take advantage of the wind. Dispersion of seed that still cling to stems and pods are sent aloft on a later flight to give the best chance for germination than seeds dispersed months earlier.

Trees benefit from the March wind as broken, insect infested branches are excised in a manner to suggest surgical intervention to remove a cancerous limb. The wind effectively prunes tree branches to allow sunlight to penetrate the canopy and promote new leaf growth; each leaf a new solar factory to boost the tree’s nutrient supply.

The wind has a wide range of expression that arises from deep internal turmoil. Perhaps the wind offended the gods in a prideful manner that justified eternal punishment. The gods therefore made the wind invisible to all the senses except for touch, and then only when the wind moves.

The wind constantly struggles with this blow to its vanity and does its best to make its presence known by channeling other elements.

Think about the wind and the scale of expression from hurricanes and tornadoes to a gentle whisper, where the wind uses a dried stem of grass or tree branch to etch its thoughts in the snow or the side of a wood building.

A spring breeze, carrying the scent of lavender blossoms, adds another dimension to the wind’s ‘visibility’ as the wind assumes the identity of the aroma. This is an expanded statement of expression; a loophole to get around the punishment imposed by the gods. This pleases the wind.

As the wind struggles to regain its physical identity and frustration builds, snow and ice are incorporated to flesh out the wind and give it a visible form.

Sometimes the desire to be seen is so fierce, the wind driven snow and ice makes the sense of sight useless, adding to the wind’s frustration, causing it to howl louder and blow harder.

The blustery wind, complement of March’s winter legacy, eventually subsides to become the gentle breeze of spring. The edge of winter passes and tempers the winds attitude to more gentle expressions of mood.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.