I once had a visitor from a distant city pause as she got out of the car when we first arrived at my cabin: “What’s that noise?” It took me a while to figure out that she was talking about the wind, which I hardly notice anymore unless it stops. The silence is what’s unusual.
I think of winter as the wind season. Sure, we get snow, but in Meeker Park the wind blows much of what it doesn’t eat around, so it rarely seems like a big deal. But the wind is a force to be reckoned with—toppling trees and shamelessly exposing their roots, creating white-outs and making driving conditions hazardous, pulling down fences and sometimes even roofs, howling all day and all night.
Last week at the cabin, we had our first really big windstorm, with wind gusts up to 75 mph. It knocked over a tall ponderosa that had already been weakened by the pine beetle, landing on my neighbor’s shed. It was just a few years ago when wind gusts of 140 were unofficially recorded around Allenspark, and people are still cleaning up the trees that were knocked over. Whole forests came down, opening up views of Twin Sisters and the surrounding peaks.
I’m not complaining, although most people do. It drives them crazy, how it never stops, how it shakes the house and makes the rafters creak, setting their teeth on edge. But when the wind is up, the world feels alive to me, because everything is moving—the long branches of the ponderosas, as if they were conducting a symphony; the slim trunks of the aspens that tremble with every gust; the golden grass stalks that bend down in submission. Even the snow bears the wind’s imprint: graceful, curved sculptures and fine lines etched in white powder. A day without wind feels hollow, dead.
Even though it’s strongest in winter, the wind is a presence all year. In June, it scatters pollen from the pine trees, sending a green cloud into the world; in the fall, it pulls seedheads from the thistles or milkweed—white bits of translucent fluff that go tumbling through the air; and all year long hawks ride on the uplift, floating untethered in the sky.
The sound of the wind depends on the medium. In the city, its voice is hollow, a torpedo through the canyons of skyscrapers; on the ocean, it makes beautiful music with the thunder of the waves. The soft sound it makes through the aspen branches in the spring is different than its rush through the pine trees. When it weaves through the dry grasses, the result is a hush, stalks scraping together low to the ground.
Sitting in my cabin at night, listening to the roar through the trees, I imagine the wind starting at the top of Mount Meeker, rushing down its large exposed face, with nothing to slow it down. It hits the forest that encircles the mountain, propelled through these thousands of pine trees, each tree adding to the chorus a slightly different note. As it gets nearer to the cabin, the wind builds to a crescendo. I can feel it, this tumultous greeting from on high, shaking me up, embracing me, some message that the world is alive.